Valedictory Assembly, Principal’s Speech

Dear Friends of the Salesian College Community, particularly members of the graduating class of 2013. We gather this week in thanksgiving for the school year and for the Year 12 students, who today finish their time with us.

I would like to take this opportunity to focus on three simple, but important pieces of advice. These messages are particularly poignant for our Year 12 students as they metaphorically leave our College gates for the last time after six years.


  • Never forget your roots or where you come from
  • Find inspiration in everything you encounter in this world; and
  • Live your life to the full

Never Forget Your Roots

Whether we like it or not or whether we are willing to admit to it, the past shapes us. It is undeniable that our experiences, whether they be at home, school or elsewhere, impact on who we are and who we will become. They affect the way we deal with situations or people – they impact on how we see the world.

I want to reflect on the experiences you have had here at 10 Bosco Street Chadstone over the past six years. 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. In either case, remembering where you come from, building on the positives, learning from mistakes made or misfortunes had is the key for future successes and happiness

My fond hope is that you will all come to see that you have been blessed with a wonderful Catholic 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.

I had the remarkable experience earlier this year to attend the funeral of Nick McKenzie, a past student from the class of 2009. Whilst a very sad occasion, I was blown away by the number of former Salesian College students who attended on the day and the relationships they shared and continue to share and the fondness they displayed when they spoke of their time here. It is something the College should be very proud of as these young men clearly recognised where their roots were and how their time spent here had laid the foundations for their lives today. So profound were the experiences that Nick had here at Chadstone, that his mother could think of no better place to farewell her son. These boys were a credit to themselves and the College for they never forgot where they came from.

A second example of this was when our past pupil, Shan Wilson spoke at the presentation ceremony at Expo Night. Shaun spoke glowingly about his time at Salesian College. Shaun is a very successful artist, academic (having completed a PhD) and media entity. It was interesting that his speech did not reflect so much on the academic side of his time here, rather it was the values the staff at Salesian had imbued in him and the encouragement they had given him. It was even more surprising and pleasing that he spoke so fondly of how they had nurtured his spirituality even though he wasn’t ready to hear it at the time. It was these lessons that were enriching his experiences of life as a husband, father, lecturer and his very successful career in the media. He was enriched because he was open to all possibilities and never lost sight of his roots. Shaun also spoke of his willingness to take inspiration from the world around him which leads me beautifully into my second point.

Find Inspiration in the world around you

Many people feel that nothing truly great can happen to them, that they can never achieve great things. I am here today to challenge this view and to say this is simply not true. It is my belief that all of you were put on this earth to achieve great things, if only you let go of your fears and find inspiration in the things that others take for granted.

I would like to use a few examples to illustrate my point. Helen Keller is one of the most inspirational people of all times. Contracting an unknown illness as an infant, Helen became blind and profoundly deaf, but despite this serious situation she was able to find inspiration in her very limited world to achieve remarkable things in her life. She did not allow her disabilities to limit the way she lived her life. She found inspiration against all odds.

Nick Vujicic is another example of finding inspiration in a limited life and becoming an inspiration to others. Nick was born without limbs, but he has not let that stop him from swimming and surfing, completing a degree or getting married. He was able to be inspired by what was around him and made the most of the opportunities that life presented.

You don’t have to be as wonderful as these examples. We can find inspiration in very simple things or everyday things. My own personal experience can illustrate this. Often I am asked by people outside of education how I could be a teacher and even more so a Principal. Being asked this question regularly makes me think about where I get the inspiration to do the job that I love. The answer is quite simple. It is my students. Rarely does a day go by where I am not inspired by the talents, gifts, generosity or the courage of students I meet daily. Whether it is in a piece of art, a music performance, the ability to do Specialist Maths or by a kind deed, students never cease to be an inspiration to me.

Finding inspiration is not always easy as sometimes it is hidden from us, especially if we are not open to seeing what is before us; other times it easier to see the negative in everything around us. How often do we allow ourselves to think of how hard life is – at times even allowing ourselves to wallow in self-pity. Yesterday I attended a breakfast where the guest speaker had breast cancer. She was an amazing woman, but the one thing she said helped her cope was a conversation she had with her son who worked at a Rehabilitation

Centre. He shared with her stories of his patients and their injuries and she came to realize that there were people worse off than her. She now takes inspiration from all the simple things around her like her family and her health.

I hope students here at Salesian College Chadstone can also find inspiration from their experiences here.

Live Your Life to the Full

It is time for our Year 12s to start the next phase in their life and live it to the full.

As you leave, I encourage each of you to follow in the well-worn footsteps of thousands of students that have gone before; students who have trail blazed a wonderful path for you to follow. Go with the aim to not only maintain the proud history our past students have created, but more importantly set about creating your own history, setting your own bench marks by living your life to the full.

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.

I do ask that our boys remember their influence on our history and continue this long after. A significant element of their tapestry, is the Salesian College history and the academic achievements, as these will contribute greatly to how the class is perceived into the future. I encourage you not to let yourselves down. Set academic standards that you will be proud of, standards that other groups will aspire to. Set your sights high and do your best.

Living life to the full requires courage. Meeting challenges, such as the one set by big screen star Judy Garland who was heard to say ‘Always be a first rate version of yourself, instead of a second rate version of somebody else’ or more succinctly it takes mettle to follow the advice of one of my favourite philosophers the great Dr Suess who said “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind”.

To successfully live life to the full we require skills to communicate with those we love, the greatness to forgive, and the humility to say sorry. For life is too short not to make the most of every day and every gift you have been given. It is unforgivable to not follow your heart and dare to dream as these are the things that will enable you to climb above the norm to become the great men you have the potential to become.

Finally, take some advice from Eleanor Powell who I have quoted once before ‘What we are is God’s gift to us. What we become is our gift to God? So use all the gifts bestowed upon you to make a difference in this world so that you can say “I don’t have a single bit of talent left, I used everything you gave me”.

I encourage each student as they leave us, to take up life’s journey to always remain open to exploring and nurturing your spirituality and faith, as it my belief that not only will your experiences be enriched, but also the lives touched will be enriched if able to establish, maintain and nourish a sense of spirituality in life.

I implore our boys to take the values they have witnessed at Salesian College over the past six years into their lives and become the great leaders of tomorrow… be angels of kindness…. make a stand against the strong prevailing winds of social injustice and stand as a legacy to family and to Salesian College Chadstone.

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”.

Class of 2013, you leave us in the knowledge that your contribution to the Salesian College history is almost complete. Your contribution as a group has been unique and you should be very proud of what you have achieved to this point. You have demonstrated commitment to your studies and the way you have held yourself as a group has been exemplary for the great part. As a group, you have shown a great loyalty to each other and the lasting impression you leave me with is one of being a united and friendly group. Your strength has come through the friendships you have shared. You have demonstrated strong leadership in many areas and a strong commitment to community service.

My final point comes from the American theologian John Powell and I use this quote most years as it is a favourite of mine.

‘There are only two potential tragedies in life and dying isn’t one of them.

It is tragic to die and not have loved and it is just as tragic to die having failed to express your love to those around you”.

It is always an emotional time when things come to an end and especially when we have to let go of something that is comfortable and familiar. There are always mixed emotions when we say our final farewells, the sadness of saying good bye to people who have been such a big part of our lives over a long period is contradicted by the sense of joy we share as we reflect on the past six years.

I hope you leave knowing that you are loved for no better reason than for who you are – especially by me. I implore you to continue to dream, dreams that go beyond that of the teenage students that I have become so fond over the past two years. Embrace life with fervour, experience everything this magnificent world has to offer.

And remember

  • Never forget your roots
  • Find inspiration in everything you encounter; and
  • Live life to the full.

God Bless.

Robert Brennan