I had the privilege to speak at my daughter’s primary school graduation. When invited to do so, I wondered how difficult this would be. As it turned out, it became a journey of rediscovering Dr. Seuss, and distilling nuggets of inspiration from the Stoics for the graduating eleven-year-olds.
The Stoics are famous for their writings in the pursuit of self-mastery, wisdom and humility. Epictetus, the former slave turned lecturer wrote in Discourses that “only the educated are free.” Dr. Seuss elaborated with “The more that you read, the more things you will know, the more things that you learn, the more places you will go!”
As I crafted what ‘wise’ words, I could pass to the audience, I thought of my own childhood, and the regrets I have in not being bolder in some instances. But life is never one straight road, and I am cheered that it’s never too late to change one’s life by purposely spending your days (to paraphrase Anne Dillard) or in Tim Urban’s vernacular, how you spend your future 100 blocks a day.
And of Theodor Geisel himself? As Susan Cain writes in Quiet, he was a much quieter man than his jocular rhymes suggest. Which goes to show: creativity comes in many forms.
As for the speech, please see an edited version below.
Tonight, is a night of mixed emotions for me, for I am both happy and sad at the same time. I am sure it is the same for many of you as well.
Happy as it’s a night of celebrations. Our children are graduating from primary school. And yet, sad to see them grow up so quickly. Where did the time go?
For it doesn’t seem that long ago, when you were not quite three years old, with a big schoolbag on your back, going off to pre-school. Then you were shedding tears; tonight, and here is a spoiler alert, I am afraid it may be the parents’ turn to cry.
Not very cool I know!
For if we could hug you for a few more moments.
You with your favourite soft toy, your favourite blanket or hanky.
Perhaps read one more story to you.
Play one more game of hide-and-seek.
But we know we have to let go.
You all have an exciting journey in front of you.
To the wonderful Kingston teachers and support staff, present and past: thank you!
You have greeted our children at the school gates in the morning; encouraged them to try a little bit harder, whether it is in class, in music, in arts or in sports.
Leading psychologist Carol Dweck defines great teachers as those who “are fascinated with the process of learning.”
You have brought joy to your craft of teaching and pastoral care. You have taught our children:
You are great mentors and role models and for that, I am in your debt. Our daughters and sons will leave Kingston as confident and resilient young adults.
To the parents:
Vivian and I thank you for raising such wonderful daughters and sons who have all helped create such a tight-knit Year 6 community. Molly has enjoyed this special group of friends and we know she will miss the camaraderie.
To our children; our future leaders:
Look at you! All grown up!
Your parents and family are all so proud of you.
You are these amazing kids, ready to take on the world.
You have achieved so much in such a short time.
Your end of year projects simply blew me away. I learnt so much from you on Education, Poverty, Sports, the Environment, Energy, Food, Technology, Music and Arts. The depth of your research, the conviction in your presentations and the quality of your community actions were simply amazing.
Before we see you perform for perhaps the last time, I wanted to talk about a very special person in a lot of children’s lives: Dr. Seuss.
When Molly was young, her mother or I would read Dr. Seuss books to her. The Cat in The Hat is still one of my favourite books.
Not only was Dr. Seuss a marvellous story-teller, he was also a very wise man. So, I want to share three of his quotes with you. Think of him as your guide and mentor who will travel with you as you embark on your exciting, new journey.
One of my favourite movies is called “Stand by Me” and it’s a movie about friendship. At the end of the movie one of the boys says:
“I never had any friends like the ones I had when I was 12. Does anyone?”
Maybe you are not quite 12 yet, and in two weeks, you will, as students, be leaving Kingston for the very last time.
A new chapter of your life is about to begin. The pages of this new chapter are blank, and you and only you are the author and the illustrator. So I wonder,
Never forget your teachers and your Year 6 friends, because they will be part of you forever, whether you realise it or not.
So, take all you have learnt and all that you have experienced and go write your new chapter!Ronald Wong
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