The biggest milestone at Wesley is graduation. Here is the Valedictory speech the Head of Wesley College, Mr Ross Barron, gave to our departing Class of 2021.
When was the last time you were called childish?
There’s a Bible verse from Corinthians that goes: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”
So, here you are – the Class of 2021, on the cusp of leaving Wesley and taking on the world. By every definition, you are now men. You have had the opportunity to try different things, develop your values, discover your passions, and now it’s time to leave Wesley’s gates and flourish.
It’s time to embrace being an adult.
Because that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? We all want to be adults.
We want to put the ways of childhood behind us and get on with the critical task of being grown up. After all, adults have the knowledge, the full picture…
Well, one of the best things about the knowledge you gain with age is the opportunity it provides to pass on your wisdom. But too often it means you shut the door on continuing to learn from young people.
That’s a mistake.
Over the last few months I’ve been thinking about how much I’ve learnt from you, the Class of 2021. Your positivity, your kindness, your willingness to give, and your spirit have taught me a lot of things. I could give you endless examples… but I’m not sure you want the six-hour version of this speech!
So let me share a handful of highlights.
It’s the way you’ve all got around Kevin, Josh, Vinh and Bryan in the Boarding House and the school. They haven’t been able to take an international flight home for 20 months. Of course, they’re missing their families, but in many ways their Perth and Australian experience has actually been enhanced because every holiday and every weekend they’ve been looked after by you and the Wesley community.
It’s the fact the Arts has grown this year, in quality and the number of students, because of the celebration of diversity that you embody. It’s the fact that Kelton Rothnie not only has your respect, but your admiration of a talent that is unique to most of us mere mortals.
It’s the integrity of our College Captain, Sam White. He’s his own person. He hasn’t tried to be anyone else, he’s been himself, just quietly going about his business. He leads by example and the whole College follows.
It’s the way that our Rugby team continued to perform despite a year were as much time was spent in hospitals as on the training track. We got down to 15 or 16 players and not only did we not forfeit a match, we were competitive. The way you stayed positive and played with such passion and desperation for each other is something I will never forget.
It’s the undertone of kindness and generosity that has underpinned your year – lead by one of the best Faith and Service prefects I have ever seen, Lucas Spicer. He drips kindness. He is a living example of the motto of a school I used to teach at: Palma Virtuti, which translates to ‘goodness is its own reward’.
As a College this year you have lead the nation in giving to The World’s Greatest Shave cure with monetary support, but – even more importantly – the participant numbers say it all about a culture of giving.
A culture of kindness
A culture of putting others first
This year I found myself in various situations where the cumulative stress of the last 20 months could have easily overwhelmed me, but I reflected on you and how you hold yourselves. Your determination, your integrity pushed me forward and inspired me to continue. Your role modelling filled me with the hope and energy to hold the course.
And that brings me to the core of my message.
Despite what it says in Corinthians, don’t be in too much of a rush to put the ways of childhood behind you. There is value in the life you’ve just lived that should never be forgotten.
Of course, you must embark on your future paths with maturity and quiet confidence – but don’t cast aside the things that made childhood great. There are some elements of youth that you should always cling on to:
Always remain curious about everything around you.
Don’t become afraid to ask questions or delve into something new. Some people fear looking like they lack knowledge – children don’t worry about what they don’t know. They roll up their sleeves and dive in. Just have a crack – you never know where it might lead.
Keep having fun and living in the moment.
Naturally, you’ll have an eye on your future – on super funds and mortgage rates – but don’t forget the childish delight of living in the present, of getting excited as things happen. Don’t become jaded. Don’t become cynical.
Speak from your heart.
Children don’t overly filter what they say. Of course, they consider their manners and try to speak with respect, but they have open hearts. They talk with courage and strive to speak the truth. You should do the same.
Forgive others easily.
You will fall out with people. You’ll meet people with objectionable opinions. You’ll get heated as your own points of view are questioned. But one of the joys of childhood is the ability to be angry one moment and then friends again the next. Children do not bear grudges, embrace that philosophy.
Never limit your dreams.
Children have multiple dreams. They will aspire equally to being an astronaut and owning an ice cream van. Adulthood tempers these ideas slightly. I certainly haven’t become the fighter pilot that I envisaged. But keep thinking big, keep having new dreams. Don’t ever fear setting a target that you might not reach.
In short, remember this:
Children are more confident, more courageous and enjoy life far more intensely than adults. Don’t rush to lose that side of yourselves.
All of you are about to transition to a new lifestyle, a new way of living. Your responsibilities will increase. The familiar routine of the College day is now done. You will have to adapt to new, unfamiliar situations without the unspoken safety net of your teachers and your mates by your side every day.
You will be out of your comfort zone. Some of you will feel stress like never before. And some of you will experience loneliness as you move from being with your peers every day to finding new friends among your work colleagues or fellow university students.
But I want you to know that you are always going to be Wesleyans. You are never alone. You are never without someone to talk to. On your lowest days, get in touch. There will always be someone here to listen. Make sure you stay connected with each other, look after each other.
In fact, not only do I encourage you to reach out to us, I look forward to the conversations I will have with you as the years pass. Because I’ll tell you a secret… when we teach, the aim is not to turn children into adults that are equal to us.
The aim is to make you into better adults than we have been.
Adults who can take the thinking of this generation and push society further forwards. Adults who will fight for equality and fairness. Adults who will improve the world.
In you, I can see a group of young men who are exceptional. A group of young men who have seized upon the opportunities they have been given in life. You will make a difference.
I’m immensely proud of you, Class of 2021. I look forward to the things you will teach me.
Audendo Atque Agendo.
By daring and by doing.
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