Mr Barron’s Valedictory Speech 2020

Posted November 20, 2020 in Opinion By Richard Ryan

Mr Barron’s inspiring valedictory speech to the Class of 2020 dealt with how failure is nothing to be afraid of, especially when you use Wesley’s values as your compass.

 

Watch the Inspiring Speech Above, or Read it Below!

Valedictory is such an important event, a day where we celebrate your success. A day when we celebrate the difference you are going to make as you go out into the world … and you are going to make a difference. After all, you have all the benefits of a world-class Wesley education in your back pocket.

As a College we work hard to set you up for success. Of course, what constitutes success is different for each of us. Some of you will measure it through your job title, some of you will measure it through your artistic endeavours, some of you will measure it through how you have helped others.

Whatever your personal target, we believe in the ability of each of you to succeed.

But, if this year has taught us anything, the world will throw unexpected challenges in your direction. To quote Jean-Luc Picard, the fictional Captain of the USS Enterprise in Star Trek: “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness; that is life.”

And that’s the truth. During your time at Wesley we focussed on developing your confidence. We have consistently impressed upon you the need to dare. Dare to explore, dare to engage, dare to learn, dare to try, dare to dream.

Now, as you’re about to head out into the world, I have your final dare. The last lesson Wesley will offer you as a student:

 

Dare to Fail.

That’s right … Dare to fail.

Sometimes, as educators, we’re so busy building your self-belief that we forget to teach you that it is completely okay to fail.

So, Class of 2020, as you embark on shaping the world into the place you want it to be, consider this: There are not a lot of things in life that are absolutely guaranteed to happen, but at various points every single one of you will face a situation where it’s all gone wrong.

You’ll stuff up the date, blow the interview, miss the plane, shank the match-winning shot, lose the account, watch a crop wither and sometimes just feel like a plain old failure.

At some point, you will fail.

It’ll sting at the time, but remember these words: It is a good thing.

Because while we all turn to success to measure where we ended up, failure is what really shapes us. It is what happens if you choose to be brave, to extend yourself, to lay it all on the line. It’s the side-effect of choosing not to play it safe. It’s the moments that forge your character and develop the grit that will take you to the next level.

So, are you ready for that journey? I think so. After all, the Wesley education you’ve received is about so much more than maths, literature and science.

Twenty years from now you may well have forgotten Newton’s laws or be a bit hazy on all the elements in the periodic table, but what you will never forget are the values that come with being a Wesleyan.

 

Respect. Integrity. Courage. Compassion.

No matter what happens in your life, you have those values within you now. Always return to them. Let them be your compass and you’ll navigate your way through any situation.

Respect. Integrity. Courage. Compassion.

Earlier this year COVID-19 happened. You may have heard it mentioned.

As you worked from home, I had to start looking at the steps we’d need to take to make sure the College didn’t go bankrupt. We didn’t know what was coming or how long it would last.

You’ll know that a lot of businesses started to lay off their staff. After all, cutting the wage bill is the fastest way to reduce expenses. In a school, this is 70 percent of our costs. I began looking at the list of roles, who could be cut, who could not be cut.

We spent 16 to18 hours a day modelling what every scenario would look like. If we laid off this number of people, what was the financial and cultural impact?

This modelling made me feel sick. It made me sick to the bottom of my stomach.

After about a week of looking at every scenario, I was exercising before dawn. It was a beautiful clear morning. I stopped near the WA Rowing shed, home of Katitjin and looked across the Swan River to Wesley as the first rays of light warmed the eastern sky.

I was hit by a revelation. We would find a way together. This is the exact moment when we needed to be guided by our values.

It is easy to have values that are written on lovely cards around the campus, but you will be measured as a community by how you live those values when you are tested.

Respect. Integrity. Courage. Compassion.

 

In Short, People Count the Most. They Always Have, Always Do and Always will.

I resolved to respect everyone’s full value. People are so much more than the tasks they are paid to do. Everyone at the College contributes in their own way to make this Wesley village what it is – a remarkable place.

I resolved that I would have courage. I would fight for our people, no matter how dark the situation got.

I resolved that compassion was going to be the key. Wesley isn’t a business, we’re an institution – a philosophy. We reached out to our community looking to help every family we could.

For me personally, once we were led by our values the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders. It was the right thing to do and everything became clearer. Knowing I was doing the right thing gave me the strength to keep pushing forward.

Then something beautiful started to happen. The Wesley community rose up.

Students, staff, parents, friends – they rallied around and worked together.

Some of the team took on cleaning roles around the College as they couldn’t do their normal jobs. The kitchen staff began preparing meals for any Wesleyan or Wesleyana members who wanted one. Staff used food deliveries as an opportunity to check in with members of our community who felt isolated.

We all turned to the values that make our College special … and it took us from the brink of failure to a place where our community is stronger than ever.

 

And now – that community strength is part of you.

Don’t fear failure. Take risks, suffer falls, keep going … because you are not alone. We are all behind you – and we are strong.

You may be excited to be leaving Wesley, but Wesley will never leave you. If you want help, support, introductions – get in touch. We’ll be here, cheering on your successes and lifting you up when you need it.

I’ve already seen your courage. As the Class of 2020 you have already overcome a situation that’s unique in the near 100-year history of the College – and you did it spectacularly. You adapted, you faced the adversity and you pushed on.

When the moment for daring and doing arrived, that’s exactly what you did. And exactly what you will continue to do.

I could not be more proud of you, men.

You are a credit to our College. Now, I invite you: go out into the world, overcome any adversity, and make a difference.

Audendo Atque Agendo – By Daring and By Doing.

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