21 October, 2015, Members Dining Room, MCG, Melbourne, Australia
Headmaster, Chairman and Members of Council, Special Guests, my Wife Kay, Members of Staff, Parents and Year Twelve Leavers.
Thank you for the invitation to speak tonight and to propose the toast to the Class of 2015.
In 1995, the first of the two year build of the PAC and Music School, I was asked to propose the same toast as the then Headmaster Colin Black wished to break the tradition of someone retiring to speak. So here we are 20 years later!
In actual fact I sang most of my speech that night, to a little “ditty” from the operetta “The Mikado”, something I will not attempt this evening. The then VCE co-ordinator, Mr. Geoff Shaw, asked me to delay moving to the lecturn so some introductory music could be played….so I duly waited and yes! The strippers music was played!
Anniversaries, Milestones, Graduations, Leaver’s or Valedictory Dinners and the like.
Are they that important?
Why do we celebrate them?
Yes they are important and we celebrate them as a mark of how far we have come on the journey of life.
Your birthday for instance, I think most of us would be pretty upset if our day of arrival into this world was not remembered. The day, as little boys, you moved from the Junior School or your Primary School into the Middle or Secondary School.
Your first pair of long trousers, your first school white shirt, the day you turned 18, obtained your license, your first “legal” drink in a pub.
Today we celebrate that you have completed your secondary school. This is a milestone in your life and you are about to take that somewhat forbidding leap away from the sheltered walls of Mont Albert Rd into the unknown. For some of you it will be total relief, “at last” you say, “ I am out”! and we, your teachers, completely understand your sentiments.
For others of you this will be a time of contemplation, reflection, exploration, to take those first unsure steps, gently feeling your way. For everyone of you it is the next phase of your lives, for you to make of it what you will.
As we celebrate this milestone with you today we also take time to look back, reflecting on what we have done and how far we have travelled from whence we came. It doesn’t matter if we are the youngest or the oldest here tonight, we all need to do this and be thankful for where we are at this time before we move on into the future.
The Class of 2015 has travelled quite a distance. Some have stayed close to home, never changing schools, others may have had one change of school, or a number of schools. Some will have travelled thousands of miles to change schools.
Having arrived at CGS how far have you travelled during your time here?
Perhaps these “vignettes” may bring back some memories.
At the house aths, a “hurdler”; having knocked over every single hurdle; gave up on the last one…. he simply walked around it.
One of the house captains was caught on a lunch date, during school hours, with CGGS girls.
Another senior office holding boy attempted to jump a wire fence whilst carrying a radio back pack…a broken leg was the result. Someone else knows the figures .345 quite well!
One of you mistook the cafeteria doors as opened and discovered them closed…. shattering them.
“Nibbles” I hear has no hand to eye co-ordination, knows all the symbols in Naruto and was put on the “time out bench” by Mrs Beck.
One of you decided that it was more fun spending the evening playing “warcraft” than being at the formal.
Another of you “messed up” one of your peers new $200 shoes!
A certain English teacher ensures that every boy in his English class has “another name” besides the one on the school roll.
Soapsuds, Milk Bar, A—Hem, Hawkeye.
A certain musician, whilst struggling to be at school on time, finds it difficult to kick a ball straight, photographs all his food, conducts date interviews for “the school formal” and owns a onsie!
The Clifford Head of House has outdone me in the colourful suit stakes.
One of you set off a Junior School fire extinguisher “on purpose”. Another ate bush berries on year 8 camp where the reaction was a swollen face to the point that he couldn’t talk.
There is always “one show pony” and from his early drama days in Junior School, nothing has changed…. at all!!
And one of the top sportsman here has always been too “cool” for school and preferred to be mates with the male teachers.
There will be many of you who will go onto careers of great variety, and changes of career. Perhaps you will make a name for yourself in the nation or in the world. But not at a Frap Party on tour, then be despatched home!
Others of you will quietly go about your careers and life contributing in your own way to the communities in which you live. But hopefully not with a street name of “snake”.
How far will you travel?
What milestones will you reach?
In Sept 1971, I returned to CGS to teach the flute and in 1974 I was appointed Ass D of Music. The then Headmaster David Dyer and the Director of Music, John Mallinson were prepared to take a risk with me. And it was a risk.
A more inexperienced 23yr old, very young, a bit green, “wet behind the years” you could not imagine. Perhaps a little bit like you, about to embark on the next stage of your life without the security of school.
However I grew into the role, learnt on the job, watched and observed others…..discovered how to operate and perhaps more importantly how not to operate.
I have been engrossed and fulfilled in my work here at CGS doing what I do best, nurturing, encouraging, persuading, cajoling, moving both furniture and boys around the stage and the school, letting people know exactly what I think! and having the occasional “hissy fit.”
Making sure I never wear the same clothing ensemble in any one week and to prevent members of the choir giving me a hard time, ensuring that my socks match my trousers!
But more importantly making music with the boys of this school.
I share this with you tonight because with determination, direction, listening, watching and learning, caring for others and to some extent the right timing, you can make your way and be a success at what ever you do. Try not to allow failure to get in the way or prevent you from finding another way around the problem. If failure visits you make it a learning tool.
Some might say I haven’t travelled very far at all.
I feel I have travelled a very long way.
To quote Tony Little in his book ‘An Intelligent Guide to Education’, “Teaching is a noble profession. Teachers devote their energy and skill to helping the young develop into purposeful adults who, in their turn, may lead and change society for the better”.
Where else is there the opportunity to play a major part in helping to shape and lay the foundation for young people’s futures.
Joel Egerton, actor and film director, said in an interview, “School is something you will always remember. It is unclouded. Later events in life tend to become clouded in our memories, school doesn’t”.
I wonder what you leave behind?
What have you achieved?
One career at one school, a very special school, where it has embraced me and I have embracedit.
A place where I have been accepted for all that I am, and all that I do both musically, and in other areas.
It has been an honour to be a member of staff of this wonderful school.
Will you be able to look back in forty or fifty years and have the same feeling about your careers?
To have achieved more than I could ever have hoped or dreamed. Many people aspire to this, but few attain it. I feel so fortunate to be one of those people who have had that experience.
Will you have this same feeling at the end of your careers? I hope so.
Remember the old saying “ that in giving you receive.”
I have received far more than I could ever have asked or hoped, from my colleagues, from parents and friends and especially from you young men.
Hopefully, we your teachers and your parents have given you the right set up for the future. You in return have given us joy, fun, times of frustration and worry, laughter and happiness in working and living with us.
If you receive, during your working life, what I have experienced and received during mine, then you will be very lucky men indeed.
If I was to leave you, the Class of 2015, with a message tonight, it would be that you have a happy and fulfilling life and career.
Live and love life to the full, you don’t know how long or how short it might be.
Stay safe, but be prepared to take a risk, you never know where it might lead.
Be kind, considerate and generous to your fellow human beings.
Remember that in giving you receive…
“Spectemur Agendo”…..By Your Deeds You will be Known.
“I slept and dreamt that
Life was joy.
I awoke and found that
Life was duty
I Performed, and behold
Duty was Joy
The past is History
The future a Mystery
And the Present
Is a Gift of God”
(by: Rabindrath Taqore)
Ladies and Gentlemen, while the boys remain seated, would you please rise and join me in a toast to the Class of 2015.
21 October 2015, Members Dining Room, MCG, Melbourne, Australia