Principal’s Valedictory Speech

“Never give in, never give in, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” Those who achieve in life are those who don’t stop trying. Giving in to discouragement is the downfall of so many. This was part of an inspiring speech delivered by Winston Churchill at Harrow School after a bombing blitz during World War II. The theme of never wavering is sound advice that still applies equally in 2014 as it did in 1940.

It is always a great honour and privilege to speak on this wonderful occasion of the Valedictory assembly on behalf of the Salesian College community. Today’s gathering is a wonderful way for the school and community to recognize and celebrate the efforts and dedication, the choices, and the many sacrifices, you the class of 2014 have made and most of all to celebrate the people you are and the group you have become.

To the boys of the Class of 2014 I congratulate each of you and your parents on your achievements in the realms of Scholarship, Leadership, Community Service, and Character. In completing your secondary education you have followed Churchill’s advice showed persistence, at times in the face of adversity to reach this milestone.

I believe that what should make you and your parents most proud is not the actual honour of completing your secondary education in itself, rather what you had to do both individually and collectively to get to this point. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.” Any recognition is just the icing on the cake, not to be expected but definitely to be enjoyed.

However, at this point I challenge you not to rest on your laurels but to continue to strive towards even loftier goals. A significant portion of your legacy lies ahead. Your place in Salesian College History will be judged in part by your academic achievements, which will be influenced significantly by your exam results. I encourage you not to let yourselves down. Set academic standards that you will be proud of, standards that other groups will aspire to.

I wish to reflect on the four elements in which you the class of 2014 have excelled: scholarship, leadership, community service, and character. These elements are not chosen at random, rather they are at the core of what is a successful Salesian education.

The most important thing to remember is that your collective legacy has not been achieved by one individual, nor has it been achieved in a single moment not even in a single year. Your legacy is the sum of the contributions made by approximately 140 individuals over six years. They embody the positive attitude displayed by the class of 2014 backed by a sense of purpose this group has demonstrated in particular this year. Your achievements as a class are thanks to many small actions, repeated everyday of every week of every year. In the end, they all add up. My hope for you is that you will cultivate this attitude and sense of purpose in your own life and that you will never ever give in.

Scholarship is much more than just getting straight A’s. It is a life-long love of learning. In the end it is a sum of small choices. I’m not sure all of you have developed a life-long love of learning yet or that all your small choices have been the wisest, however I am sure that you have approached your learning this year with a sense of purpose and a willingness to take on board the advice your teachers have provided and it is with a sense of optimism I look forward to your outcomes. As a group you have been willing to embrace all the extra-curricular opportunities, sometimes with too much enthusiasm and vigour, and this has broadened and enriched the education you have received.

As you move on remember that each time you decide you WANT to learn something rather than being forced to learn something, the experience can be rewarding and learning becomes easier. Soon learning becomes a habit. At that point, your desire to learn makes getting A’s easier while taking the focus off grades. Knowledge can still be hard to gain, but knowing you’ve mastered a difficult subject is an awesome reward. Suddenly the world around you becomes richer, full of learning opportunities.

We have witnessed leadership on many levels, not limited to those elected or appointed to positions. Whilst Michael, Aiden and Robert have lead by example and with distinction the leadership team have been able support and have complimented their efforts to create a wonderful legacy of which you can all be very proud.

As you leave remember that position does not teach someone how to be a leader. Leadership is an attitude, cultivated over time and I hope you take with you the leadership lessons learnt here at Chadstone to be the community leaders our society craves.

Stand up for what you believe in and ‘face the music’ even when that music happens to be unpleasant. Have a purpose and follow that purpose to get the ends you desire. Have a vision.

Community service has been a great strength of the class of 2014 but it hasn’t been limited to a narrow understanding of social justice. Whilst the class of 2014 have been very active in raising funds, and supporting the College’s charity initiatives it has been the support of aspects of community service that sometimes go unrecognised where this group has excelled. Every time you took part in a community activity such as the walkathon, community day, even lunch time house activities you were undertaking community service and I wish to commend and congratulate you for that even if I couldn’t quite understand the rules of some of those soccer matches on the courts.

True community service is an attitude. Something you do for the right reasons. The class of 2014 have embraced our community and given it true service. I hope that in the end, when it is all done, and you are once again well-rested, you can look back over your time at Salesian College and realise that you did something worthwhile. That you helped your fellow man in some way. And more importantly you take the lessons learnt and the values gained to continue to offer service in your communities wherever they may be.

Finally, character. The character of the group of fine young men who sit before me here today is one of warmth and friendship. You can be truly proud of the way you have come together as a group. You have always given me a sense of joy that springs from the sense of belonging and a sense of pride I witness among you. I pray that you take this great gift with you and let it be a source or a base on which to build a wonderful life.

I encourage you as you leave us to take up life’s journey to always remain open to exploring and nurturing your spirituality and your faith as it can be a real source of hope.

I quoted Winston Churchill earlier ‘Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy’ today it is unlikely that our enemies will come in the form of an army rather they are likely to be modern forms, even internal enemies. They may present as contemporary forms of slavery, addictions such as drugs, alcohol, the pursuit of material wealth at the cost of everything and everyone else.  I implore you to take the values you have witnessed at Salesian College over the past six years into your lives and never yield to the these great enemies. Become the great leaders of tomorrow, be angels of kindness, making a stand against the strong prevailing winds of social injustice, standing as a legacy to your family and to Salesian College.

Don’t be consumed by mantra of today’s capitalistic consumer driven society. Take Robert Louis Stevenson’s advice and “Don’t judge each day by what you harvest but by the seeds that you plant”.

If there is any one thing that is evidenced by your daily choices it is your character.

I truly believe what Thomas Macaulay said, “The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.” A bit of advice my father once gave me was that if you wouldn’t be proud for your mother and I to see or know what you’re doing you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

The next few weeks will be a true test of your character. What are you going to do when no one’s around? Now that the teachers have left the room. The answer to this question is a key to your true character. For while being honest and honourable when others are watching is important, being true to yourself is tantamount.

And in the end, these private day-to-day decisions will eventually reveal your true character to the world.

Finally, some of you will look back with great fondness and will celebrate with great pride and joy. Others will have mixed feelings about what has taken place over this time.  My fond hope is that you will all come to see that you have been blessed with a wonderful Salesian education which you will find is one of the great privileges you will experience in your life, one that I’m sure you will grow to appreciate as you mature. It is my hope that you will take the experiences, opportunities and the friendships you have gained here and allow them to be the driving force and source of immense support for you making a difference in the world.

Go in the knowledge that you have contributed greatly to our College history in your own unique way. As a group you have developed many wonderful friendships and other positive relationships, you went about your learning in your own special way, you showed leadership and provided community service to many.

In conclusion, I congratulate you on the completion of your secondary education. You are truly the best of the best. You are Salesian young men. Enjoy yourself, and remember as Winston Churchill said “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”

Robert Brennan