Modern and Shakespearean Advice for Life by John Sibi-Okumu

What words of wisdom would you relay to a young lady or gentleman preparing to head off to University (albeit virtually in the odd covid-19 times)? Work hard? Be kind, spend wisely?


As a wise-by-many-standards, Albert Einstein once said, “Assumptions are made and most assumptions are wrong”. However,  it is safe to assume that as an adult, you can remember your teenage years and relate to the occasional indifference to advice from “grown-ups”.  For some, and this we can blame the chemical composition of a teenager, most things adults said didn’t make sense. The dinosaur speeches of impending doom and gloom if you did this or didn’t do that were neither particularly interesting nor sensible! Not to a bright-eyed, know-it-all ‘Senior’ in High School! But as life progresses, those seemingly ‘old’ words, unfold naturally and progressively.


We know him as an actor, presenter, actor, moderator and writer but earlier in his career he was a teacher; and as he delivers his speech, I can’t help but wonder if my English teacher voiced the words of characters in the boos we read  like Mr. John Sibi-Okumu or JSO for those who know him better (did) in his speech, I would have enjoyed English lessons even more (Don’t fret Mr. Njoroge, you were a great teacher!)


With the headmaster’s strict 15 minute limit and his determination to limit possible boredom JSO’s speech as the 2020 Senior School Guest of Honour was an utter delight and highlight of the virtual event.


In his speech, we get to learn a bit more about him, for one that he was a teacher earlier in his life in addition to being a thespian and media personality as most of us know him to be. He is also a father, and perhaps this plus his memories of his days in High school influenced his decision not to belt out dos and don’ts but to give timeless paternal advice for the University of Life.


As he recalls a particular school trip to the Kenya National Theatre to watch the play Hamlet, he recognizes the famous words of advice from an adult (Lord Polonius) to a young person (Laertes- his son) as still applicable in today’s times by paraphrasing the words into modern English.


Being kind, caring, helpful not hurtful, responsible for others just as we are for ourselves, showing compassion and holding on to principle. No matter the language or century, these are some of the values that every young man or woman should carry with them as they venture into adulthood. These are words and values that transcend time.


As someone generally unfamiliar with any of Shakespeare’s story-lines, I’m now surprisingly curious of what his literary works entail and if I can relate to any of it.


With all your insecurities, with all your doubts, leave convinced that everything is going to turn out fine in the end!” – John Sibi-Okumu

In these uncertain times, these words of encouragement spoken in modern English and by the gentle but compelling tone only a father can pull-off should influence us all.

Watch the full speech below


Written by a guest at the St Andrew’s Senior School Speech Day.

hamlet, john sibi-okumu, online learning in kenya,