A very Good Afternoon to you all!
When I received your Principal’s letter inviting me to speak at this valedictory ceremony, the first thing that grabbed my attention is your school’s Mission:
“To transform boys into ‘men of might’ by imparting values, attitudes and quality education that prepare and empower them
to optimally function in society and the global village”.
I address you now as young men who are emerging “Men of Might”, men who have matured intellectually, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Today, you, young men, have enabled Cornwall College to succeed in its Mission! And I say congrats on your achievement.
You have been given life-changing tools. Empower yourselves by the confidence that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. You were sent (or sentenced) to school. You are leaving way ahead because you have finished the course. I charge you therefore to make a difference!
To all the parents, grandparents, other family members and guardians, as well as siblings who invested time, talent and love in these young men, we owe you a debt of gratitude. Many of you have sacrificed a great deal so that you would be able to develop and reach this point today.
I ask each young man in the 2014 Graduating Class to stand and give these wonderful adults a rousing round of applause.
In this audience this afternoon are also Cornwall College Old Boys who are reliving this ceremony. Many are remembering their own valedictory service and the hopes, dreams, anxieties and fears which crowded into their minds then. There is much that they would have learned since then; mistakes and pitfalls which, as mentors, you can now help youngsters to avoid. I hope that they will come along-side you and give you the benefit of their experiences.
The Old Boys can tell you that they are pressing on with their objective firmly in view, knowing that as Sir Winston Churchill, the great wartime Prime Minister of Great Britain and frequently quoted statesman said:
“Success is the ability to go from one failure to
another with no loss of enthusiasm“.
Many of you have been giving back to your Alma Mater and I commend you, CC Old Boys, for your excellent Solar Energy Project and hope that you will soon achieve your goal.
The Chairman and Board, the Principal and all Members of Staff lead this immense charge for the continuing success of Cornwall College which is achieved by a well-rounded education. In this way Cornwall College fulfils its Mission year after year.
Principal McIntyre, perhaps during these years which the Class of 2014 have spent under your tutelage, you and your Staff might very well have feared this was “Mission Impossible”. Perhaps you can recall some conversations with students about their less than average grades.
Similarly, a teacher told of a boy named Tom who was angry that she had given him a zero on a Maths test.
“I do not deserve this zero!” he complained.
“You are right!” the teacher replied.
Tom started a victory dance.
Then she added: “It’s the lowest mark I could give”.
That did not happen at Cornwall College! The culture and ethos of Cornwall College is so vibrant. If this is reflected by your students, then I dare say, you are an outstanding school! I see here smart students who knew they had to live by the Motto: “Learn or Leave”. Today, graduates, you can say to your teachers, without a shadow of doubt: “Mission accomplished!” You are not leaving because you didn’t learn!
I treasure every opportunity I get to speak with young people, not only because I used to be a teacher and a Pastor. As a father, I say to each of you: Well done! But the journey has just begun!
I hope you will keep learning, because you will soon find that in this university of life or of “Hard Knocks”, what you know is far less than what you do not know. Always see your years at Cornwall College as a stepping stone to the next level of your personal growth and development, be it further studies, training or employment.
The values you have learned are the necessary, all-important tools for success.These include integrity, gratitude, respect for self and for each other, good neighbourliness and service to God, community and nation. Hold firmly to these values!
In today’s world you will be tempted by those who believe that nothing is wrong unless you get caught doing it. They want rapid success at any cost and do not respect the boundaries of truth and honesty, which is why so many youth are languishing in jail, or even worse, are victims of murder.
“Men of Might”, it takes courage to hold on to your values. Be a worthy example of the good lessons instilled in you at Cornwall College!
Attitudes learned here would have prepared you to adopt a positive approach to life, knowing that success does not come easy, or overnight. Always remember this equation for success: Attitude plus aptitude equals altitude.
You must persevere; laziness will leave you in the dump. You possibly learned Longfellow’s verse:
The heights by great men reached and kept,
were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
were toiling upwards through the night.
When I was growing up, older folk would often say: “Anything that comes too easily, is not good“. I implore you to always bear this in mind. There is no free ride; nor is there any easy money in these difficult economic times. Work effectively, so that you may develop to your fullest potential.
As you prepare for the next phase of your life, I urge you to be mindful of the following:
- Technology has made knowledge much more accessible, but it is not static.
- Much of what you learned in school will become outmoded in a few years. I therefore implore you: Keep learning!
- Each of you has a choice and every day, for better or worse, you make your choice.
- You can choose to believe that you will achieve whatever you dream.
- Or, you can choose to limit yourself by believing your economic circumstances, your family situation or where you live, will keep you down.
- Dare to dream big! Keep focused on your goal!
- Believe in your immense potential to achieve it!
I leave you with four gems from personalities whom I greatly admire:
The Rt. Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey: “If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life”.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
He had a dream, which he never lived to see realized, but today there’s a black man in the White House.
John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”
Sir Winston Churchill: “Never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”
Finally, believe with me that “There is nothing wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed by what is right with Jamaica”.
“Men of Might”! Today you begin your mission to change the world. Cornwall College has given you the launch pad.
Let your energy, your ambition and your determination propel you to higher heights!