Upper Canada College IB2 student Philippe Martin addressed the Upper School assembly on Feb. 18 with an “I believe” speech about the importance of perseverance. Here’s his message:
“You may have heard similar stories a couple of times, but I can’t put enough emphasis on how important it is to persevere. Here’s my story, one that I hope you do or will relate to at least once in your life.
“Coming from a much smaller town than Toronto, with far more narrow linguistic diversity, even the thought of applying to a school in a large anglophone environment didn’t make any sense to me. Getting accepted to one of the best in the country in the heart of the largest city in Canada was simply unthinkable. However, striving to improve my English at school with the few lessons I took, the unthinkable became true.
“After struggling in this new environment at first and trying to understand and to be understood, family, friends and advisors here at UCC helped me make my way through the first months. Even though classes like French and math were pretty easy to follow, I faced other challenges in history, science and ToK. It’s already hard to explain ‘how one knows what he knows,’ so imagine writing about it in another language.
“Having to be involved two terms out of three also made me get out of my comfort zone. Knowing nothing about rugby, I tried out for the varsity team. I soon realized this sport was way more complex than it appeared in my mind. Being one of the only newbies on the team, I learned the rules slowly, especially by getting penalized on the field during games.
“Despite being violent at times and only being able to run in a straight line with the ball, I managed to have a good season and started every single game. By getting out of my comfort zone, failing a couple times and persevering, I learned much more in the past two years than during my previous high school years at home.
“With this confidence and new state of mind, I ended up running for head of Wedd’s, a risk that paid off in the end. Now, three months away from graduating, I look back at those two years more than proud of what I accomplished. Far from being easy, this journey was a life-changing experience I’m glad I lived.
“My message for you today isn’t to pack your things and fly far away from home. The key point I want you to understand is that, with perseverance, you can achieve things you never thought were even possible. I believe in perseverance and learning through failure. I believe that perseverance is what ignites passions, what keeps hope alive and what fuels dreams. As Thomas Foxwell Buxton once said: ‘With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable.’
“Aim for the moon and, even if you fail, you’ll end up among stars.”