Last week, we farewelled the graduating Class of 2021. Below is a transcript of the speech College Captain, Sam White, delivered at the Valedictory Dinner.
Good evening Head of College, Mr Ross Barron, Chair of College Council, Mr Matt Braysher, distinguished guests, staff, parents, and the Class of 2021.
I began writing this speech a year ago, after our Prefect Induction Assembly, and the week after the Valedictory Dinner for the Class of 2020. I had just read something by the late Heath Ledger. Ledger’s words, which have been at the back of my mind throughout this year, were: “Everyone you meet always asks if you have a career, are married, or own a house, as if life was some kind of grocery list. But no one ever asks you if you are happy.”
I can safely say, that after 14 years, eight years, one year, or however long you have been in this place and beside these people, the certificate you have received, or are soon to receive, will not be the most important thing you take away.
A certificate, often like a shopping list, does not do justice to your achievements, your character, your capabilities and the influence you have had on others.
As we leave this place, what should make us all happy is what our teachers, mentors, parents and friends have given us, how they have influenced us. Happiness is taking away lifelong mates and lifelong lessons. We take them all into the future. Take a moment also to be proud of how you’ve positively influenced the journey of others because that’s of equal, if not higher, importance.
Although we’re here celebrating the end of this stretch of road, it’s also a time to express our thanks to those who have been behind us and beside us as we’ve walked the journey. So, I think it’s pertinent that I start with a number of thank you’s on behalf of all the lads.
Thank you to the grounds staff, the canteen staff, the maintenance staff, the IT staff, the technicians, and the admin staff for all the behind-the-scenes work you’ve done to keep Wesley such a beautiful place for us.
Thank you to our classroom teachers for your consistent dedication to not just our education but to making us better people. We have formed so many strong relationships with our teachers.
Thank you also to our Mentors, some of whom have been with us for four years. The job of a Mentor is not an easy one. Your support, life advice and commitment has been invaluable. I know the Dickson boys have fond memories of banter with Mr Ward, of being perplexed by Ms Hardy’s chess genius and of crepes with Mrs Leong.
Thank you to our parents and guardians for your eternal support and trust. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to come to this amazing place. A special thank you to my Mum and Dad for putting up with me to this point. Although I might claim that a sports star or actor is my hero, you have always been my real heroes.
Thank you to Mr Townsend, Head of Year 12. Your banter is unparalleled, and we have greatly appreciated all the work you’ve put in for us this year. Thank you especially for the daily reminders to get a haircut and have a shave.
Mrs McGivern, thank you for being so down to earth, for asking how we’re travelling. The leadership group have really enjoyed your leadership, chats, and honest guidance this year.
Mr Norman, your job is often a thankless task, but a lot of the amazing events we’ve had this year as a cohort are as a result of your tireless work behind the scenes. Thank you for all that you have done for us this year.
Mr Barron. One boy described Mr Barron to me when he said, “He’s just so good at speaking, so smooth”. Mr Barron, the way you carry yourself, the way you show a genuine care for what’s going on in our lives and the way that you’re always searching for how to make things better has been inspiring. Thank you.
I do have one last thank you, but I’m saving it for later.
What a year it has been. This year:
- Wesley set new fundraising and lap records in the World’s Greatest Shave and Relay for Life.
- We sent off Reverend Nalin Perera with an iconic war cry and welcomed our new Reverend, Manie Strydom.
- The Year 12 music boys impressed in their many performances this year, such as when Wesley took the stage to huge audience at the Concert Hall and more recently at the Rosemount.
- The brilliant drama production of Blood Brothers was performed to sold-out crowds.
- The amazing Year 12 work in the Arts, Design and Technology Exhibition was a real testament to a whole year of work from many of us. Likewise, the Drama and Media boys impressed everyone in the Screenplay Night with their solo drama performances and films.
- The superhero-themed RUOK? SRC day in Term Three was one to remember.
- This year’s combined NAIDOC and Reconciliation Week was an important experience. The image of the whole school gathered down on Wood Quadrangle as the Moorditj Mob boys danced on the sand-mural is still vivid.
- This year saw an iconic end to the cultural phenomenon that is lunchtime soccer.
- I wouldn’t be alone in wondering what supernatural event went down in the world of Wesley Sport this year. It’s impossible to gloss over the enormous shift in sport culture we’ve seen this year, and a real growth in the ability of Wesley boys to compete and earn respect.
- And who could forget ‘The Hill’, the masses rushing the field, home and away, rain or shine? The support, the cheer, the spirit, the pure culture and class at the interschool swimming, athletics, and winter and summer fixtures.
College Captains have created a long-standing tradition of acknowledging the cohort’s honorary Captain of Culture in their final speech. Our year has a number of boys who just breathe culture. Thomas ‘TJ’ Jordan, Joshua ‘Jagnee’ Agnihotri, Bryan Law, Michael Canci, William ‘Woff’ Offer, and the list could go on. Although I know this will inflate his ego, I believe that the antics of James ‘Gibbo’ Gibson, have made him deserving of the title.
This list of memorable moments barely encapsulates this year’s cohort.
So now, we come to my final thank you which is related, strangely, to the Red Frogs talk we had a few weeks ago. The presenter had a lot of really important things to say, regardless of the few questionable things he also had to say. Like every presentation you’ll ever listen to, you only ever take away at most one or two things. The one thing he said that stuck with me is something that I think might’ve gone over a lot of heads. He said, “You wouldn’t be here, in Year 12, without your mates.”
So, my final thank you is to you: the Wesley Class of 2021, my brothers. Thank you for making my day and for making each other’s day, every single day. Every one of those moments has added up to one hell of a journey.
A massive shout-out to my fellow prefects, who had the courage to put themselves forward at the beginning of this year and have done an extraordinary job leading us. They’ve made massive contributions to the amazing year we’ve had.
Your parents, teachers and mentors are all extremely proud of what you’ve achieved, how you’ve grown and of who you are. But what I think is most important to acknowledge, is how proud your mates are of you.
Tonight is the time to celebrate who you are right now, what you are capable of and what you stand for, but also a recognition that we’re moving on to the next chapter. Some people already know what they will be, what they will have to give, after Wesley.
In Taika Watiti’s Hunt for The Wilderpeople, one of my favourite movies, Uncle Hec calls it ‘the knack’. The ability to know just what to do, what you’re meant to do. Ricky Baker asks him how you get the knack, and Hec tells him bluntly that, “It’s not a thing. You just get it.” If you haven’t found your knack yet, just know that at some point you’ll just get it. Keep taking opportunities and living life with courage and passion.
I’ll end with a phrase that was first coined by Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the founding father of Scouting.
“Leave this place better than when you found it.”
Baden-Powell said these words in 1941, and good on him, but I feel as if he missed a few important things. In the context of our year, I think it should go a bit more like this:
Leave this place better than when you found it
You, leave this place as a better person than when you were first here.
Take nothing but photographs, memories, mates and who you have become.
Leave nothing behind but footprints, your legacy and traditions for those to follow.
And know that although you will journey to many new places and meet many new faces, this place and these faces, will always be part of what makes you, you.
And with that, I wish you well for what’s next for you, be it the WACE exams, TAFE, uni, work, an apprenticeship, or something else entirely. I am enormously proud of what you individually and what we as a cohort have achieved this year, and it’s been an absolute honour and privilege being your Captain.
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