Advanced English Reading – Celebrities with guts

Hi, you’re attending the advanced English reading module of Vocatic, a unique course that blends culture, linguistics and professional development. 

Today we’re going to start our advanced reading class with the Irish writer, Samuel Beckett, who was born in 1906 and died in 1970.  His most famous work is Waiting for Godot, and he’s often associated with the absurd, and existentialism. As is common in Ingocio, however, we do not want to talk about his work, but more about his life, because Beckett did something that I think is amazing, truly an inspiration and example to all.

The first thing is that he found himself in the Second World War in occupied France, and he stayed to join the resistance, despite the fact that he was Irish and the Irish weren’t even part of the war. Beckett did this because he saw several Jewish friends killed or taken by the Nazis. He acted according to his conscience.


For two years, therefore, Beckett was working as a messenger between different units of the resistance – a very dangerous job – until, eventually, he was discovered by the Germans. Luckily, he escaped capture and had to flee to the south, but although he was wanted by the Gestapo he continued to fight for the resistance: storing weapons and taking part in sabotage operations.

What courage! What sacrifice! And what commitment to his principles … truly amazing! But that’s not the amazing part. What’s most amazing is that afterwards he never spoke of what he did. Never in his career or during the height of his fame or when he needed publicity did he take advantage of his heroic acts. Sure, there were people who knew what he did… because he won a resistance medal and the Croix de Guerre … but Beckett refused to discuss it in interviews, and if pressured would dismiss it as… ‘boy scout stuff.’

Now I’ll return to that in a minute, but let me just mention something else amazing: a very important lesson for all your projects, dreams and work. You know what it was? That all the time Becket was…. running from Gestapo, sabotaging Nazi military installations, and passing messages to units of the resistance … he continued writing a novel and working as a writer the whole time.

Damn, that is dedication. I have students who tell me they couldn’t do their homework because they had a headache, or they had to pick their son up from school, or they have a lot to do. Well, the next time you come to me with your weak excuses for not doing work, I have two words for you: Samuel Beckett. 

Anyway, excuse that aside, and let’s return to the fact that he fought for the resistance and claimed no credit for it. This isn’t just a lesson in sacrifice and selflessness it’s also a lesson in modesty, and, in my opinion, one that twenty-first century celebrities should take note of. 

Let’s face it – celebrities today have no balls. Sure, celebrities do charity work, but first of all they milk it for all the publicity they can, and secondly… it’s just not so convincing to take time off from a busy schedule of touring and filming and partying to do a bit of charity work, and then return to a busy life of touring and filming and partying.

Where’s the passion, and the absolute commitment to a cause? When was the last time you heard on the news… a celebrity has announced his retirement to set up an orphanage in Africa and is currently risking his life to help others? I would proffer that the only cause most celebrities are committed to is: themselves. 

Now, this didn’t used to be the case. Look at Audrey Hepburn:, there was a celebrity who decided to devote her life to charity, and not only that but she was caught up in Nazi occupied Holland where, amazingly, as a child, she also aided the resistance. And whatever happened to that great celebrity concept of walking away from money. Wittgenstein, after serving in the First World War, gave away his entire fortune and went to live in a small hut in Norway to contemplate life. That’s style… I wanna see Beyonce doing that. 

You see, twenty-first century celebrities need to set an example to their millions of followers. So if a gun toting gangster rapper wants my respect he can take his gun to the streets of Syria. If Tom Cruise wants me to think he’s cool, he can start funding the Iranian resistance… If Dr Dre wants me as a fan I wanna see him with an AK 47 taking out a machine gun nest in Mugabe’s presidential compound.  And lastly, most of all, I wanna see Justin Bieber, take a bullet in the head, defending the rights of women in Afghanistan. 

Thankyou … and goodbye.

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Okay, that’s the end of today’s advanced reading class…now I’d like you to do your writing task for the week by visiting our website – advancedenglish.net or our Facebook page –  and giving your opinion on celebrities. Am I being unfair? Are there any celebrities who have shown courage and principles or do you think most of them are vain and useless? I look forward to hearing your comments. Goodbye.

 

Vocabulary Focus

 

  • Courage valorbravery. “What courage!”
  • Aside decir algo apartea brief diversion form the principal conversation. “Anyway, excuse that aside.”
  • Claim the credit llevar el merito to not try and gain anything. “And he claimed no credit for it.”
  • Selflessness desinterés the opposite to ‘selfish.’ “It was a lesson in sacrifice and selflessness.”
  • An orphanage orfanatoa special home for children whose parents are dead. “An orphanage in Africa.|”
  • Proffer ofrecer / brindarto put forward. To propose as a solution or theory. “I would proffer that the only cause of the war was money.”

 

  1. Aided ayudadohelped. “He also aided the resistance.” 

 

Advanced Reading questions

  1. Why was it unusual that Beckett decided to join the resistance?
  2. What was Becket’s role in the resistance after leaving Paris?
  3. What official recognition was there of Beckett’s wartime activities?
  4. How did Beckett refer to his work in the resistance?
  5. What type of accommodation did Wittgenstein choose after giving away his money?


Advanced Reading Answers

  1. Because he was Irish and the Irish weren’t in the war.
  2. Storing weapons and taking part in sabotage operations. 
  3. He won the medal of the Resistance and the Croix de Guerre.
  4. As Boy Scout stuff.
  5. A hut.

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