Headmaster’s Message – December 1, 2016

November 30, 2016

Headmaster Address to Valedictory Dinner – 18 November, 2016

It is with great pleasure that I formally welcome everyone to our 2016 Valedictory Dinner. I particularly would like to welcome and congratulate our Class of 2016 – the fine young men in front of me who are finishing their school journey at St Patrick’s College and are about to go out into the world and place their mark on it. In offering this welcome, we acknowledge the traditional custodians of this great land, the Wathaurong people, and pay respects to elders past and present. May we walk gently and respectfully on the land. I also acknowledge the many dedicated Christian Brothers who have tended the soil of St Patrick’s College over the past 123 years and who have inspired countless generations of young men in the Edmund Rice Charism.

In recent times, I spent three weeks in India on an immersion and conference experience. In an attempt to have some refuge from the incredible heat and humidity, I would return to my hotel room to spend a few hours late each afternoon to watch a little TV. The only channel in English at that time of the day was CNN News and I found myself becoming engrossed in American politics and the battle for the Presidency.- One of the alarming comments that caught my attention from the election campaign came from Donald Trump when he said:

-I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me. Believe me. And I’ll build it very inexpensively. I’ll build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.-

This quote got me thinking about why he was building this wall and the times in human history when other political leaders felt the need to build great walls.

The Berlin Wall, 27 miles long and made largely of concrete, was designed to separate areas under Soviet control from those held by the Allies and was a physical manifestation of the Cold War era. After years of families being separated, years of immense sadness, the Berlin Wall was torn down 30 years after it was built in 1989.

The Great Wall of China, at 21,000km, is 2300 years old. Its purpose was to keep out a number of different tribes who were constantly threatening the first Emperor of China. It has been used, throughout history, as a means of strong border control.- –

Walls are built with the purpose of separating people from each other in the belief that it will serve to relieve our anxiety around differences. But the walls that truly prevent us from connecting with each other on a human level, are not necessarily found in concrete and stone. They are the walls we carry inside ourselves each and every day. Walls that can block inclusivity, walls that can block acceptance.

While Donald Trump talks of building a physical wall, the greatest risk in his vision, I believe, is the division and fear it creates between people. It potentially serves to drive a wedge between our connectedness as human beings. – The building of the Berlin Wall happened overnight- a fleeting moment in time that divided people for 30 years.

Each and every day, everyone in this room experiences moments where we can choose to put up a wall or be people of inclusion and welcome. They can be big or small moments, but they are all important and should never be undersold or devalued. These moments all share a common thread: opportunities to act, to speak up, to respond in a way that reflects who we are as people and what we stand for.-

Such moments can take many forms. Some are so obvious, we run the risk of missing them completely – greeting people with genuine enthusiasm, taking the time to actually listen to someone’s answer when we ask, often casually, -how are you going-, smiling at someone, taking the time to speak to someone standing next to you in a shop.

Other moments present a greater risk for us emotionally such as making the time to sit with a person who we know is really doing it tough, taking the chance to repair a relationship that has been broken, being completely honest with someone, saying sorry when you know you have hurt someone, taking the time to tell your family that you love them unconditionally, putting your arm around someone who is hurting and crying with them.-

In all of these examples, we can be people who can make a monumental impact in the lives of others. Our willingness to respond defines us as people. Do we want to be people of the Gospel, or people who hide behind walls.

For our graduating Class of 2016, one of those significant moments is about to open for you. Tonight, as you walk through the doors of this building for the final time as students you will be standing on your own two feet, ready to face the world. Your teachers and coordinators will no longer be directing traffic. They have, together with your parents and carers, laid the foundation stone, and now it is your turn to make decisions for yourself.

We know that each of you are ready to be young men fully open to the moments that call you. And the world desperately needs each of you to say something.

It seems to me that there has never has there been a time in history when there exists such division in the world. You don’t have to delve too deeply in the newspapers each day to read about war, racism, extreme poverty, violence and intolerance. However, I think we can also become lost sometimes in the hopelessness of this. To frame it another way, there has never been a greater chance to step up to the plate and make a difference to break down the walls of separation.

What will you say? What will you stand for? Everyone has to stand for something.

Never underestimate the importance of being a leader whose greatest strength is not found in financial prowess or in being able to articulate cleverly crafted sentences, but in in relishing the chance to be with people.

As a cohort you have shown great leadership this year, and have been wonderful role models to the younger students who look up to you each day. You have responded to the expectations we have placed on you with graciousness and acceptance. On behalf of the entire community of St Patrick’s College we thank you for your stewardship of the College this year.

Always know that God loves each of you without conditions and barriers. Never forget that in choosing to respond to every moment that calls you to action, you continue your journey as a -Paddy Boy-, even though you have long left the physical environment of the College.

To all parents, on behalf of our entire staff thank you for trusting us with the education of your son. It is a privilege and honour to be a part of their lives. We hope you feel as much part of the community as your son does.

And finally, to all of our 2016 Graduating class – God bless, good luck for your journey ahead as you march Onwards to Victory.