If, in fact, you find that to be the case, I would like to remind you that is only because this is the third consecutive time that I have been kindly asked to address a graduating class of Royal Vale School.
Furthermore, in these ardent electoral times, I would like to assure you that what you are about to hear has not in any way been plagiarized from the office of any Commonwealth Prime Minister and, although perhaps familiar to some of you, reflects MY writing and MY thoughts only.
Dear Friends of the Royal Vale Community:
Firstly, I would like to thank Mr. Roumeliotis for inviting me back to Royal Vale for this one final occasion in order to address the graduating class of 2008, the last such class to whom I had the privilege of teaching. It is truly a deep-felt honour for me to be here among friends, both former colleagues and students alike; to once again see the familiar faces of people with whom I spent so many memorable moments but a short time ago.
For many years, I believe that I was one of the few teachers -if not the only one at this school- to address you – the graduating students- as ‘Boys and Girls.’ Now, on this beautiful evening as I glance about this venerable auditorium, the sight of a multitude of previous commencement exercises, I see that that is decidedly no longer the case, that time has worked its magic, and that you are all now clearly ‘young men and young women’ – young men and young women on the very threshold of adulthood.
And although they may not necessarily say so, your parents in particular stand amazed. They who have loved you and nurtured you from the earliest times must now contemplate the astonishing yet humbling truth that you will shortly begin to move in your own direction, claim your own autonomy, and ultimately make your own decisions.
Furthermore, your teachers, who accompanied you on this magnificent journey through your adolescence, are also astounded at your recent and very rapid advancement to adulthood. As I understand it, some of you were pupils and students in this school from kindergarten to Secondary V – some twelve years. During that time you were watched over and cared for – perhaps a little more than you would have liked – by administrators, teachers, secretaries, counsellors, and without doubt all those who work in the educational sector. Our motives for so doing were not just professional but also stemmed from a profound desire for your well-being and your best interests.
Graduates of 2008: I can only imagine the joy that YOU must be feeling tonight. Your extended journey through elementary school and high school is now over, while the most exciting and hopefully productive years of your life lie open before you.
One of the most important attributes you have acquired from the time you passed in this half-century old building is unquestionably the ability to advance and flourish within a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-lingual community. During the ten years years I spent at Royal Vale I frequently, and happily, observed the diversity in friendships that developed among you, both within and without the classroom. Cultural, religious, and racial considerations were seemingly (and rightfully) swept aside in your search for involvement and companionship within this educational facility. I am pleased to say (and I am sure that your parents are inclined to agree) that you are among the most well-integrated and broad-minded students I taught in the course of my rather lengthy career in education.
Take that quality of acceptance with you, live it, build upon it, share it with others, and this much-troubled planet will be a better place for it.
We are living through an age of overwhelming challenges that will test the breadth of your learning and the depth of your compassion. From complex environmental issues, such as global warming, to the HIV / AIDS pandemic, from the social and economic disparities which exist throughout the world, you may have surely observed that our planet earth and our human species are struggling, perhaps more than ever in this but the early years of the twenty-first century.
Royal Vale Graduates of 2008: All of us in this assembly hall, on this splendid night, are entreating you to help fashion a better world, a world in which there is peace, justice, and sustainable development, not just for the fortunate few, but for all of earth’s inhabitants.
We are favoured to live in this amazing and beautiful country called Canada, the land in which our families, either recently or decades ago, chose to settle. The vast majority of us have flourished within the framework of this nation’s bounteous social, economic, and political freedoms to which we now have become so accustomed to the point of taking them for granted.
Ours is a unique inheritance;……….however, it comes with responsibilities- the responsibility to remember that it was not always so, that we did not always live in a society of great abundance and, to all intents and purposes, unlimited licence; the duty to remember that all of our material good fortune contrasts starkly with the plight of so many people throughout the rest of the world, and even far too many within our own country; the obligation to remember that all of the world’s eminent religions teach us that we should care about the difficulties of our fellow man and help wherever and whenever we can.
For, in fact, human life on this planet earth, both so fragile and fleeting, is a composite of cultures and customs, of languages and religions. No one individual (and certainly no one nation, including our own) has a monopoly on veracity and morality.
Tonight, as you, and I, leave this building for perhaps the last time, you will close this enchanting, youthful and priceless chapter of your life only to open yet another. In the years ahead, as you journey the world and come upon other Montrealers, you will ask one another not necessarily from where in this grand city you hail, but rather what secondary school you attended. Such is the allure of the high school years that their compelling memories remain embedded in the human spirit for the longest time.
I would like to conclude with this thought: A few years ago, you read a novel in which the protagonist was given the following advice by his great aunt, and I quote: ‘Never be mean in anything; never be false; never be cruel. Avoid these vices and I can
always be hopeful of you.’ End of quotation.
That was good counsel then and still good counsel today.
Improving the human condition, however, is rarely easy, and doing good works does not always produce immediate effects…. but yet together, they can act as a lever. And, Archimedes, the Greek mathematician of ancient times, in explaining the principles of the lever to his friends, is purported to have said ‘Give me a place where I can stand and I shall move the world.’
Royal Vale Graduates of 2008: Travel that same world about which Archimedes spoke figuratively so long ago, rejoice in its beauty and diversity, write poetry, compose music, enjoy your youth, dream dreams, dream of things that never were and ask ‘Why not,’ bring happiness and honour to yourselves and others; in short, find your place to stand, and in so doing, you, like Archimedes, might just move this precious planet of ours towards a peaceful, just, and sustainable existence for all of mankind.