A word of encouragement for year 12 students on their graduation

Distinguished guests, Board of Governors, staff of …School*, parents and friends of the senior school, students and in particular the year 12’s of … Grammar School.

Churchill once said: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

I want you to ponder this quotation – “we make a living by what we get, but we make life by what we give.” Churchill's quote contains two opposing words “get” and “give”.

This school, I believe, has been trying to endue in our students an understanding of this difference.

Jesus put this another way:

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven... For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21).

A question I would like our year 12 students to answer – where is your treasure going to be? Because this is where your heart will be – that is, this will be where your focus of life will be.

I want to begin this short speech with three points:

Firstly: you will need to decide where you want your heart to be. Most importantly you must answer this question: Do you intend to give or receive?

This needs to be a deliberate action.

We live in one of the richest nations on earth – rich in many ways. I was pondering what would have happened if the 79 students of the year 12 cohort had been born in Cambodia – I choose Cambodia on purpose because this School has a heart for the Cambodian people especially the Khmer peoples. Only 47 students of this cohort would have a mother who could read and write and 66 would have a father who could do so. Most of you would have gone to primary school, but only 35 of you would have graduated into high school. And only 8 of you would be going on to any form of tertiary education. At least 3 of you would have died on the journey from birth to year 12. Ponder that – 3 of your friends would have died in the 13 years you spent at school.

How fortunate God has been to this year’s 12 cohort, and indeed Australia.

The second point concerns keeping your faith in God. The World will hate you because they only see treasure on earth as worthwhile. In fact, this is something Jesus says. Jesus said that anyone who loves God, will be hated by the world. In this country, you are not arrested and imprisoned, but our tertiary education system is designed to make a mockery of God. The same-sex marriage laws will make it nearly impossible for Christians to voice what God wants without ridicule, if not out-right persecution. All universities in this country will attempt, with much fervour, to have you abandon God – they say there is not God.

This is a lie because I know God and He is real.

The Principal of this School knows God and has been telling you about him for the past 13 years as has your teachers. The question is not whether there is a God – there is! But “what can I do for God?

The third point is that you will need wisdom, especially in managing information. I think this is more crucial today than ever. It requires leaning how to manage the relentless flood of information coming your way. This and the keeping of your faith in God are intricately linked, I believe – because there is a vastness in the pool of information but much is contrary to the Bible and the ways of God – since the world hates God.

You 79 year students know more than I or your parents did when we left school – you know that, because you keep telling your parents of this fact! What you forget is that all of us have been learning since we left school – intelligent humans never stop learning - so although you know more than I did in 1977 when I was 18, you don’t know as much as your Principal does today!

The biggest challenge you will face is sorting fact from fiction. You have easy access to 5 billion pages via Google on the internet, plus some 50 billion other pages. Additionally, there are also some 50 billion other pages which you don’t have access to unless you try hard including the ‘black’ or ‘dark’ web, and usually very evil. Fifty billion is a very, very large number – too many to even contemplate as A4 sized pieces of paper.[1]

Even in such august fields as health where I work, the fact needs to be sorted from the fiction. Back in 1750 there was an issue of fact and fiction. A man whose name was James Lind, who sorted out the cause of scurvy, and whose prescription Captain Cook followed, stated that “… before the subject [of survey] could be set in a clear and proper light, it was necessary to remove a great deal of rubbish. No one believed that scurvy was related to foods we eat or did not eat, and furthermore, no-one wanted to try the simple remedy of ensuring an intake of citrus, and lemon in particular. Fact did win over fiction, ALTHOUGH THE MAJORITY DID NOT BELIEVE Mr LIND back in 1753. Drinking the juice of oranges and lemons stopped scurvy developing on long sea voyages. The minority can sometimes be very right!

You are entering a challenging yet inspiring time. You have access to more computer power than any generation ever – access to more information faster and quicker than any generation ever. My son tells me he has more music stored on computer than time left in his life to listen to it!

Ask God for wisdom on how to use this information to give back to the community in which you live.

Most of you are now 18 years of age, or soon will be – this gives a new responsibility which we call civic responsibility. Other being able to marry, purchase a home, go into debt and be sent to adult prison, you will be able to make appointments and visit your local member of parliament, such as Tony Zappia – one of our guests tonight (Federal member for Makin) and you will have to vote.

I think this gives you three responsibilities, for which I believe this school has been preparing you. All three are based on the tenet that as an adult, the most important person in the world is no-longer you. I come back to Churchill’s quote of getting or giving – what will your focus be?

Firstly you must vet anything the government does whether local, state or federal and you must voice your opinion loudly when they contradict what is right – this is your responsibility. The attempt to re-define marriage is one such state sanctioned action that true citizens of God must veto. Proof of the failure of a peoples not opposing a government’s policy is Germany – leading to a systematic sanctioned murder of six million Jews. Only a minority voice a contrary opinion – one wonders what would have happened if a majority of Germans had refused Hitler’s evil requests of the cival society.

Secondly, you have a responsibility towards anyone the State fails – and there are many of these – the minority groups, the homeless, children of abusive parents. We all have a responsibility to care for these unfortunate individuals. The Apostle James from the Bible calls this true religion and undefiled (James 1:28). James said true religion is visiting those without parents and the wives of those whose husbands have died. That is making those who are less fortunate than you, your focus. As an individual of our civic society I believe Dietrich Bonhoeffer[2] was right when he said (and transliterated for this school) “you must act on behalf of any victim, even if they do not belong to the white Anglo-Saxon community – whether Black or Hindu or Jewish”. This is not a right, but a responsibility.

I take the third point, also from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a man murdered by Hitler for doing just this. It’s not just good enough to give a hungry man a piece of bread; you need to involve yourself in righting the wrong that caused the person to go hungry.

To sum up, I and the Governors of this School want to you ponder your new freedom – you now have many choices, all of which come with responsibilities. Choose wisely.

Remember - “we make a living by what we get, but we make life by what we give.”

I leave you with these words, from the wisest man ever to live:

God says to you my son and daughter, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, So that you incline your ear to wisdom, And apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, If you seek her [wisdom] as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the LORD, And find the knowledge of God.

I and the Board of Governors wish the year 12 cohort of 20xx all the best for their future. To staff, parents and friends of the senior school, we wish you a restful and safe Christmas, and look forward to seeing you in 201x.

May God Bless You.

Thank you

* All names have been made anonymous.

[1] (Updated 2017)

[2] Eric Metaxas 2011 Bonhoeffer : Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, USA

David Simon
\Devotions\Encouragement speech to school leavers