What We Really Need Now

Yuri Ogata
Koka Gakuen Middle School

As junior high school students, what do we need? Cell phones? Stylish new clothes? Are material things that important? What about experiencing as much as we can in order to gain as much knowledge as we can to broaden our outlook on life?

This summer I went to a nursing home to do volunteer work. One of the tasks I had to do was to accompany an elderly man in a wheelchair in my town. At that time I was surprised to see that my town was not suited for handicapped people. There were too many stairs and escalators, and the aisles in some shops were too narrow for a wheelchair to maneuver. I never would have noticed how inconvenient my town is had it not been for my volunteer work.

Through my firsthand experience, I began to think about things and people other than myself. My thinking began to change. Whenever I would watch news on TV I would hear the phrase gbarrier freeh. I had never really given much thought to the meaning. But now when I hear the words barrier free, I can imagine in my mind gentle slopes for entering shops, spacious areas for shopping, and nice wide elevators. These are just some of the things I began to think about after this summer.

Knowledge increases through experience. There is also another way for us to gain knowledge.

Recently I have read an interesting book. In it the author writes about many problems facing our society today. His ideas made me think deeply. One of the problems mentioned was that there is a contradiction between our present-day society and education. For example, he brought up a point about individualism. In our society today people have to speak up in order to be heard. Standing out in a crowd is sometimes necessary. Being different is not necessarily being wrong. But in school we are told to wear the same uniform and not to stand out in class.

I talked about this to my mother. She said, gIndividualism up to a certain point is all right, but everyone has to conform at some time.h

I said that we shouldn't look at individualism in any form as being wrong. The author's ideas made me think about myself and my place in society.

As I said in the beginning of this speech, what do we junior high school students need? We need a good balance between experience and knowledge. We should meet as many people as we can and talk to them. In sharing our ideas our knowledge will grow. We should also read books, which will make us think, so we can improve our minds. The less pictures in a book, the more challenging it will be for us to read and understand.

I would like to talk to as many people as I can, not only to Japanese, but also to foreigners. In doing this I will come to understand how people of different cultures think. I may not agree to what they might have to say but at least I will come to understand what they have to say.

I will continue to read books and do volunteer work whenever I can.

Material things may be needed but things unseen like experience and knowledge are more important, more lasting and more meaningful for junior high school students today.

(1-21 Speech in 55th Contest, 2003)

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