Valedictory Speech – June 2010

Good Evening Dr. Jones, Parents, Relatives, Governors, Administration,  Faculty, and Staff, STS Students, and of course, Fellow Graduates of the class of 2010:

We have had a remarkable class, and I am very proud to represent us this evening.

Tonight the achievements of our class have been celebrated. There are certainly people to thank for this, our teachers and all those at STS who have helped in so many ways, and our parents. Isn’t it extraordinary that this exact combination of people has had the chance to overlap in  our growth, development and in our lives  which has resulted in  our final day as students at STS. Call it whatever you want, but I’m a structuralist and it is pretty serendipitous that such a diverse group of people have shaped our lives in such a profoundly auspicious way.

I’d like to tell you, Grade 12s, that tonight we take a significant step in our own lives our own stories, and towards our own adventure. We all have the potential to lead heroic lives.

Tonight I would like to talk about this journey towards leading heroic lives as we leave high school. I would draw a parallel to the journey we are about to embark upon with a book titled The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell written in 1949. It is an underlying pattern of stories in which the protagonist undergoes three phases- the Departure, the Initiation, and the Return.  By embarking on this journey and undergoing these phases leads the protagonist to arrive at state of ultimate happiness and fulfillment.

By following the essence of these phases, we can lead our lives with inspiration; lead our lives with an underlying direction with the understanding of what we should achieve and how we should achieve it. The Hero’s Journey is really a challenge to “be nothing but the best”- Nil Nisi Optimum- throughout  our whole lives. Because of who we are, the efforts our parents and teachers have put into us, and with the solid foundations of any STS grad, we are certainly capable of embarking on this quest.

In the book, Hero with a Thousand Faces, this departure is directly related to us this evening.  We are at the beginning of the journey, our departure from the world of the familiar and known. We have been called to an adventure; to university or new life experiences of a gap year that await us in the fall. We have not refused this call. We are all here today eagerly awaiting the new challenges. You can clearly see it in our actions and decisions, we are embracing our new stage by attending some of the best universities in the world, in some of the most rigorous and innovative programs and some of the most fascinating experiences that a gap year can provide. And up to this point, this year even, we have put in our greatest efforts in the classroom, on sports fields,  on the stage and the countless other opportunities our school has provided.

The last themes of the departure are crossing the threshold, and once crossed, having guides to aid us in our journeys. When we cross our first threshold by leaving our childhood homes at the end of the summer, we shall go forth with confidence knowing that our parents, teachers and mentors have prepared us well for the day of embarkation. And we know that they will be guides for our journeys, as they have once embarked on their journeys.  We know they are only a phone call away for all forms of support. It will be in university where we shall make those last steps from a world of formative growth and dependence toward a world of total independence.

The next phase in the Hero’s Journey is the Initiation. This is the point at which we move towards our stated goals in life. For example, this could be achieving the most we possibly can in our chosen fields of career or generally the goals that we set out to achieve. What’s important is to choose what you love to do, “Follow your Bliss” as Joseph Campbell says, and do it well. He also states that it can be anything, and let’s not be afraid if it turns out to be something unprecedented, be excited. Working towards the goal will be a road of trials, tasks and ordeals. Some of these will be failures, but we will endure to achieve our goals.

In this stage according to The Hero With a Thousand Faces, we can hope for ourselves that we find in our travels unconditional and all encompassing love, to find the person who we love most completely. Even you Easton will find someone who will love you unconditionally.  At the same time, we will have to avoid the temptations that may lead us, the heroes, to abandon or stray from our quests.

But in our initiation we are eventually able to confront whatever holds the ultimate power in our lives and through that confrontation achieve what we have set out to achieve. We shall receive our ultimate reward of the quest. And we shall have been prepared for that day by living our lives towards it. Afterwards, we will have our period of rest, peace and fulfillment.

Nonetheless, we must understand that the most important part of the hero’s journey is not the achievement of the goal itself: it is what you do with it. The Return, the final phase in the Hero with a Thousand Faces,  is our most Crucial step, and though it may be a long way off in our lives, it is here where we will see our lives meanings, whatever they turn out to be. It is my belief that in this class there will many significant accomplishments.  However our lives will also be more than this. I believe our lives can have meaning beyond the material. Through our journey we must strive to achieve not only material success, but also spiritual fulfillment.  If we can be successful in this, we become “masters of two lives”, achieving a balance of both inner and outer-worlds, between the material and the spiritual. It is in this where the true meaning of life could lie, where we can have freedom to live , living life with unconditional happiness. According to the book  in the phase the return it is our responsibility to ourselves and others  to integrate the wisdom we have gained in our initiation, and  share it with the rest of the world.  If we can live excellent lives, find true happiness in our lives, and be fulfilled, it is then we consider ourselves successes.

The journeys will be different for all of us, but there is no question that we are all prepared to embark on it. Our departure point is Sthrathcona Tweedsmuir School. What is true is that we can lead our lives with inspiration and meaning. It will be a challenge to “be the nothing but the best”- Nil Nisi Optimum. But in meeting this challenge and taking this journey  we shall become “masters of two lives”, achieving a balance of both inner and outer-worlds, between the material and the spiritual. And in this find ultimate happiness and fulfillment

Class of 2010 as you leave STS to night for the last time as students of our school, prepare to embark on the hero’s journey.


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