This, Too, Shall Pass: ANZAC Day 2020 Reflections

Occasionally, I take a break from blogging about education and technology to address other topics that are top of mind. I’ve posted about some of the hiking adventures I’ve done recently, and two years ago I blogged about ANZAC Day observances.

As much of the world, including New Zealand where I live, remains in some level of lockdown due to the #COVID19 virus, reflecting on the bravery and resilience of our forefathers can be encouraging and a reminder that things always get better and return to some form of normal.

This, Too, Shall Pass

The phrase “this, too, shall pass” has that distinctive ring that makes you think you’ve heard it somewhere before, but perhaps can’t quite place its origin. It’s a phrase I’ve been reflecting on over recent months as we all adjust to some form of “new normal.”

In fact, the origins of the phrase are not conclusively known with references appearing in English as far back as 1848 and 1852, with one source recounting:

a sultan requests of King Solomon a sentence that would always be true in good times or bad; Solomon responds, “This too will pass away”.

Abe Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln. Credit

In 1859 a young Republican politician, and future President, Abraham Lincoln referenced this narrative recognizing the uniquely applicable elements of this phrase to promote humility during a time of success and comfort in a time of difficulty:

It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction! (Source)

I’m certain that innumerable generations have repeated some version of this mantra as a source of hope and inspiration that things will improve.  Undoubtedly, during the long years of brutal and unrelenting conflict throughout World War 1 and World War 2, both soldiers far from home and their loved ones who remained behind looked forward with heightened anticipation to the day when that conflict would pass and a return to normalcy would ensue.

The Birth Of An ANZAC Spirit

The NZ History website is a great resource for getting an easy access point into topics like these, so I do encourage you to check it out if you want to learn more about ANZAC Day.

I’ve previously taught History and Social Studies where this topic is explored in depth, linking the emergence of a unique identity, forged through the hardship of battle, for New Zealand and Australia and recognized now as the ANZAC Spirit. These have become firmly established in the annals of nation building lore in both countries.

ANZAC, in case you’re wondering, stands for Australia New Zealand Army Corps, formed in December 1914 and came of age during the ill-fated Gallipoli Campaign.

Nowadays, ANZAC references abound: from biscuits to trans-Tasman sporting rivalries, helping to keep these foundational ideas alive. Notions of how two small British Dominions formerly known off-handedly as the Antipodes and where most residents saw themselves as “British”, emerged as uniquely and distinctively Australian and New Zealander, coming together through shared experience of conflict, forming a brotherhood to be forever known as ANZAC.

Lest We Forget

It is with a sense of pride and historical appreciation that I’ve observed an increasing respect and reverence for the Annual ANZAC Day commemorations. Having travelled to America numerous times and seen first hand the respect and honour provided to members of the US Armed Forces by their fellow citizens, along with the emphasis on Memorial Day, it’s pleasing to see New Zealand developing a similar passion.

With #COVID19 Lockdown in full swing, I’ve been limited to walks around the block but was thrilled to see this beautiful fence on a very misty morning this week:

Lest we Forget

Even my own children have got in on this.

My eldest, in her final year of high school, was asked to give the ANZAC Address at her school this year. Unfortunately due to #COVID19 lockdown the service could not proceed, however multiple people contributed to creating an online version which can be viewed below (her speech starts at the 6:28minute mark):

Touching on themes of freedom and sacrifice, along with conviction of thought and action, her message acknowledges the high cost of war through the experiences of both her great-grandfathers in World War 2 and issues a challenge to us today: what will we do with that freedom, purchased at so high a cost?

My other children, with school happening remotely and online due to #COVID19, have had plenty of spare time on their hands which they have utilized by making ANZAC wreaths and poppies:

As schools, students and the general populace pause to reflect at this time each year, we collectively remember and reinforce the bonds that make us a nation. This year, in 2020, we do so under particularly arduous and unique circumstances due to #COVID19, something many politicians are referring to as “our generation’s battle”.

Without trivializing the ultimate sacrifice that many, many of our forefathers made during the armed conflicts that birthed the ANZAC spirit, it should rightly be recognized that #COVID19 is also causing death and significant economic pain for our small nation.

And yet, New Zealand has seen this and worse.

In fact, in 1918 at the very conclusion of World War 1, the Influenza Pandemic struck with staggering brutality:

The second and more deadly wave of a new strain of influenza arrived in New Zealand in October 1918. By the end of the year around 9,000 people across the country had died. Half as many New Zealanders lost their lives in little more than two months than during the entire First World War, and worldwide the pandemic was responsible for at least 50 million deaths.

Consequently, we should approach the current difficulties we face with a healthy dose of historical context, recognizing that whilst we suffer, our forebears have seen this – and far worse. Nevertheless, we can be united in wishing that:

This, too, shall pass

Lest we forget.


If you enjoy this sort of thing, you may be interested in the two recordings I made below – delivered as Chapel presentations when I was still working at St Andrew’s College. They are the product of many hours of research and I blogged about how technology enabled this here, including my personal highlight of first finding, and then being able to connect over Skype, with the 93yr old surviving sister of James Samuel Cartwright.

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