Friday, 4 November 2011


My generation and the senior generation can sometimes feel that everything is falling apart, and we have a real fear for the future. But that happens in every generation.

Young people have tremendous resilience and an excitement and thirst for life that we too experience. We must remember that they are demonstrating their capabilities no less than we did at the same age, and our parents before us, and our grandparents before them.

The media tends to concentrate on negative aspects of national and international life and, with social media enabling us to communicate in a way that even fifteen years ago was incomprehensible to most of us, it seems that the very fabric of society is falling apart.

Not so.

Go into any town or city and just look at the number of young people who are working in all of our stores, retail outlets and technological centres. Listen in to just some of the vibrant conversations amongst our students, the level at which they are speaking, the passion about matters confronting all of us, and the way in which they work to, what a few years ago we called, the common good. It sounds old-fashioned today, but it still underpins society, and is still very much part of young people's thinking and motivations.

And not just in our towns, cities and villages. It is our young people who are bearing the brunt of a vicious war and, bluntly, making that ultimate sacrifice, and they are representative of our young people generally who, if the occasion arose, would be just as resilient and ready to do the same.

We saw this in August. Let us not forget that the majority of people who responded to the riots by turning out all hours of the night and day to immediately clean up the mess, even as the riots were taking place, were not so much my generation, but the young generation. It is they who, by their very presence, spoke with one very defiant voice to the rioters and made it clear that their rioting was not going to be tolerated. I saw this for myself here in Liverpool and, as I've previously written on.

It's a pretty ambitious thing to say, but we probably live in the most exciting and far-reaching century in humankind's history. Tremendous demands are being placed upon us, and our young people are, as always, right there, in the vanguard. Sure, they wind us up, and cause a headache; sure, we lie there at night only half asleep because we're waiting to hear the door click, announcing their safe return home, albeit sometime a bit noisy, missing the last step on the stairs or just deciding they'll bed down in the hall by the upturned umbrella stand! But come on, we've all been there and done that when we were that age. Well I know I did!

In fact, living at home then, I remember returning home one night after 2am and really getting a severe ticking off from Dad (a police officer) about being out so late, irresponsibly leaving my car door wide open and even worse, the front door while I decided, on a whim, to go and post a letter (as you do!), and rather lamely replying, "But Dad! I'm sober and I'm a constable!" But Dad's Dad! And it wouldn't have made any difference had I even been the chief constable, not that that is possible at the tender age of 23! Many times do we all laugh on that little family story. And to this day Dad still touches the rudder occasionally, and quite honestly I love it!

Watch young people work together. See how they interact. See how they project all the good and great things you've taught them and which, for some reason, they annoyingly decide not to demonstrate at home, but which, amazingly, they lean heavily upon at work.

You see this none more so in the Apple Store Liverpool One. Being used to police and RAF command operations or control rooms, there is an exciting buzz in such places, so I sense this same buzz every time I go into the Apple Store. And I know that this is equally so in all the other stores that makes up Apple's front of house image.

Watch the interaction between the team of blue shirts and the occasional black business shirt as they work on literally hundreds of complex enquiries, many of them unscheduled footfall visits, an hour. See the manner in which they deal with every visitor. Watch the excitement with which they approach their work, the pride they have in their product, and the confidence they have in demonstrating to older people just what it is that we now have in the way of technology.

See how one person in one hour can be tasked to deal with up to half a dozen complex problems with technology, of which they have no prior warning, so must immediately analyse and throw that lifeline of reassurance to an often stressed-out customer who fears the loss of all their work. Listen to the very complex and searching questions that each member of the Apple Team has to field and answer correctly.

Note the calmness, the diplomacy, the quiet efficiency, and the friendliness. This doesn't just happen. It is taught and nurtured by managers who are bringing their teams together, orchestrating individual strengths. Talking of which, remember, that without exception, we all have weaknesses. But our strengths will always eventually outweigh our weaknesses.

Realise that here is the UK's future.

Without realising it, we ask much of our young people and give them a hard time.

Never begrudge a young person asking a question about something that, to us, is obvious. Be happy that you have exuded an air that gives them the confidence to ask that question at all. Don't belittle them. And when peers decide to do just that, quietly override, signal in some way that your confidence in their work, in their ability, in their standing, remains undiminished.

Every young person is priceless to family and to society. Each person is unique and has a definite contribution that she, he or they will make to the benefit of us all. These young people have undergone apprenticeships, degrees, masters and PhDs. Remember this the next time we're at the supermarket till point.

The Apple Store is becoming an essential meeting point throughout the UK as Apple Products become more popular with all of us. And don't be frightened at being taught something new by young people. All of us have something to contribute. I was talking to someone yesterday who spoke about the Vietnam War. It caused me to shift my focus from my area of thinking, namely, the excellent teaching I received at school on the Second World War, to a war we all followed daily as it became ever more violent in the 1960s. Here was a young man with a more up-to-date perspective of modern warfare.

That too served to touch the rudder.

To the managers at Apple Liverpool One, the Genius Team, the Customer Services Team, the Business Team, the Technical Support Team (the back room boys and girls), the administrators, I say thank you for all the work you are doing for us here in Liverpool and, indirectly, for the UK. I can assure you that many, many people are very proud of your achievements. You are a beacon light, and, a delight to the City Fathers.

Ian Bradley Marshall

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