L’Ecole Secondaire Esquimalt High School : Trustee Speech to Grade 12 Graduating Class June 4, 2012: Behold This Day

Good Evening Esquimalt High School:

Trustee Elaine Leonard and I are both assigned to the Esquimalt Group of Schools. Trustee Leonard asked me to convey her regrets as she will not be here this evening.

Thank you for inviting me to be part of this evening, and thank you for the opportunity to congratulate you all, students, school and District staff, and parents – this is a team effort! Bravo! Well done!

All of you here tonight have succeeded already demonstrated by the fact that you’re here and that you have come this far.

You are now taking some significant next steps in your life. It’s a joyous time and a time that brings choices into sharp focus. You’ve made good choices up to now; your graduation tonight and your accomplishments to this point prove that.

I have been so impressed by all of you at the school, especially the programs I’ve experienced first hand: the very exciting music programs and culinary arts programs. I see talented focused students working with dedicated teachers and administration – and parents! – to create a school society you can all be proud of.

Students, as you move out now into greater participation in larger society,  I hope you will give some thought to the ideas in an important book, published in 2009, The Spirit Level. It focuses on equality in society, and how important that is to the well-being of every citizen. One common factor links the healthiest and happiest human societies: the degree of equality among their members. Wealth,resources, culture, climate, diet, and even system of government all meant less than equality.

The authors’ research concludes that we humans are designed to be attentive to, to depend on, and be depended on by others.

If we all join in thinking of success for ourselves and success for our society and country in terms of increasing equality and lessening inequality, rather than seeking the usual markers of status and indicators of success for only ourselves, we will all be examining what it means to be successful, how we will seek and achieve personal satisfaction, and what each of us owes our fellow citizens.

As you each takes your next steps into a new part of your life, as the great jazz saxophone player Coleman Hawkins said : If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not really trying. As a recovering perfectionist, this was an exciting phrase for me when I first discovered it. So expect to make mistakes. They provide great opportunities for learning.

I have two more quotations that I’ve found inspirational in my life and I hope you find them inspirational as well.

This one is often attributed to Goethe, who wrote in Germany in the 17-1800s. He said “…the moment one definitely commits oneself… All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance…. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”

I will leave you with the simple but profound words of Black Elk, the great spiritual teacher of the Oglala Lakota. He said, and I say them to you, for all your days to come:

Behold this day, for it is yours to make.

Congratulations to every one of you!

About Diane McNally