Leaving Ceremony, Monday, May 26
First of all, I want to thank Rob Ford. Because no matter what I say up here, I think I’ll compare favourably. I’m wearing pants, so I’m already ahead of the game.
Thank you, Mr. Kawasoe, for the introduction. Principal Dr. Jim Power — and father of my classmate Liam, Head of Prep and Upper Schools Mr. Don Kawasoe, Chair of the Board of Governors Mr. Andy Burgess, President of the UCC Association Mr. Jim Garner and Board of Governors member Mr. Lincoln Caylor — father of my classmate Jack Caylor — and other distinguished guests, parents and alumni.
I’d like to say a word of special appreciation to and for the final member of the platform party — retiring Head of the Middle Division Mr. Bernard Lecerf. It is a personal honour for me to be able to wish Mr. Lecerf the very best on his retirement. He has dedicated 46 years to the school, and the generations of students who have gone through it — including I might add, my two older brothers who always speak very fondly of him still — surely makes for an unequalled record of skilled leadership and service. Be it as a head of school, a wily soccer coach, a superlative French teacher or a friendly presence in the halls, your kind words and guidance will be missed greatly by all of us and your legacy here will stand as a testament to the wonderfully positive impact one teacher and friend can have. Thank you Mr. Lecerf, and all the best from the Class of 2014.
In thinking about the content of my as-yet-unwritten speech, I had the bright idea to take a look through the Power book of winning speechwriting strategies. Thankfully, that book wasn’t very long. Don’t tell him I said this, but Dr. Power is a bit of a one trick pony. In fact, the book had only one page: “Give them a story and three takeaways.”
Unlike Dr. Power’s traditional structure, I’m going to give you my three takeaways right from the start. Ladies and Gentlemen … they are to:
1. Look Back.
2. Look Around, and
3. Look Ahead.
I don’t mean to look back at the clock at the back of the hall and calculate how long you have to wait for your post-graduation martini, or whether you’re gonna get home in time to feed your hamster, or to look around and see if anyone’s fallen asleep yet. Or even to look at the podium.
Look back at the unforgettable experiences we’ve all had together. Look around at your classmates, families and teachers, and appreciate the special relationships we have all formed thanks to this school. And look ahead to the future and think of how we can put everything UCC has given us to the best use.
Having thus exhausted Dr. Power’s extensive list of speechwriting tricks, I found myself in need of someone else’s ideas to “borrow.” Seeing as I’m representing the UCC Class of 2014, I decided to canvas my classmates for their memorable moments at the College — by means of an anonymous survey. I received many responses. Some were inappropriate, others were wildly inappropriate, and still others I had to look up on Urban Dictionary. You know who you are. I thought there could be no better way to look back on our time at UCC then to share some of the more appropriate memories — theirs and mine — with you all.
We’ve had some exciting times. I still remember the birth of the Blue Army and the first pep rally led by our original generals Chris Griffiths and Connor Taylor. The same Blue Army cheered our teams on to amazing success, from the varsity tennis nine-peat dynasty, to soccer’s three CISAA titles and national championship win, to the football team’s multiple big CISAA wins against SAC. This one is really based on your feedback — the number of SAC-related profanities the survey returned was kind of shocking. Chanting “Aurora” and various other less-than-appropriate phrases may not be exemplary sportsmanship, but I like to think a strong rivalry is only possible in a place where school spirit is even stronger.
And we’ve had our fair share of non-athletic excitement as well. Our Model United Nations and debating teams have both risen to new levels of success, winning at international competitions and really establishing UCC as a public speaking powerhouse. Our students have experienced a great degree of individual success in these activities, but the real victories are those that come as a team representing this school across North America.
Looking back, we’ve struggled with some of life’s greatest mysteries. To this day I’m still struggling to understand why some Year 2 student walked into the Lower Dining Hall carrying a baby. And then proceeded to sit down with his friends like nothing was different. We were all puzzled by the mysterious disappearance of Tavo Rooneem. Surely he went on to bigger and better things, most likely without Mr. Battley’s “guidance.”
We’ve had our bursts of creativity. I’m no theatre buff, but it’s obvious the work that went into the stage productions, from American Buffalo to Twelfth Night, to our very own Sam Hodgkins Sumner’s student-directed play Paradise Lost, was truly outstanding. Our bands are another huge part of our community and we have had the privilege of enjoying the wind ensemble’s classical melodies, senior jazz’s funky tunes, and Brandon Yap’s green day tributes. And how could I forget the pinnacle of the Class of 2014’s creative talent — Alex Kotzer and Shammas’s chart-topping rap videos.
We’ve had our stressful times — laughing during the French exam because of the mysterious whistling bandit. Laughing nervously in the HL chemistry exam because of how exhausted and scared we all were. If there’s one thing the IB program has taught me, it’s the value of a good night’s sleep. It has also revised my definition of a “good night’s sleep” to mean four to five hours at most, but that’s beside the point.
We’ve also had our share of classroom fun — from Prep guidance classes with Ms. Parody and her friends, to Mr. Scatozza’s perfection of classroom puns, to Mr. Hutton’s numerous identical lectures about how we all think we’re the king of the world.
We’ve had our share of outside-of-the-classroom fun as well, whether its productive exam studying in the bomb shelter, or spending a disproportionate amount of time sitting at the back table in the LD, in front of the extremely politically correct mural.
The number of memories we’ve had at this place approaches the ridiculous level — and they’re dominated by positive ones. I actually asked in the survey what the worst part about UCC was in their opinion. Other than 10 or 11 mentions of the fish, the worst we could come up with was a distinct lack of girls and proper air conditioning. I’d say that’s a pretty good sign.
In my mind, the best summation of the memories I hold, and I hope all of you hold, of my time at UCC, came through the responses to what the class thought was the most surprising thing about the College. Some were a little less than heartfelt. One student expressed his surprise that “our account doesn’t get charged when we use the bathroom or open a door with our student card.” But some were very sincere.
Boys were pleasantly surprised by the “warmth of the teachers and how much they really care.” They were surprised at “the amount of fraternity that we all feel, despite an environment that many would think breeds intense competition.” They were simply surprised by “how much they’ll miss it.” In my mind, this represents how we, the Class of 2014, should look back at our time here. On the surface, it is a long series of distinct memories and events that we can think and laugh about all we like. But all of these isolated memories have come together to build relationships and bonds to people and place that are the strongest and most meaningful I’ve ever felt.
Keeping in mind the memories from our look back, I’d now invite you all to look around. Personally, I’ve been a UCC boy since I was in Grade 4. Many of our classmates have been here since the beginning of their schooling. When you’ve been at a place for this long, sometimes change can go relatively unnoticed. So look around at the people seated and standing in this hall, and appreciate how much we’ve all changed for the better thanks to UCC and each other.
Students, look around at your teachers and how they’ve changed from talking heads in front of the chalkboards to mentors and friends. Look around at your classmates and how you’ve come to appreciate each and every relationship you have with them. Look around at the school and how it’s changed for the better. Teachers, look around at this group of guys. It wasn’t that long ago that we were laptop-absorbed, immature and irresponsible Year 1s. Now, we’re immature, irresponsible and laptop-absorbed Old Boys. Scary, I know. Parents, look around at your boys. Be proud of them for doing so well in making it this far. It really is a huge accomplishment.
While looking to the past and the future is important, it’s also important to appreciate the moment. Don’t get so caught up in the emotion of leaving this place or the excitement of the next stage, that you miss looking around and appreciating everything this school has given us, from friends and role models to opportunities and skills — all to last a lifetime.
For the parents in the audience, I promise I’m not trying to solicit donations when I invite you all to now “Think Ahead.” Look ahead to your son’s own future, but also to the future of the College. This place is changing around us for the better, boasting greatly boosted financial support packages, an ever-more diverse student body, renovations to facilities and classrooms alike, and increasing success of clubs and teams — sports, Model UN and debating alike. (Seriously, if you haven’t seen the trophy cases around the school take a look. They’re ridiculously impressive).
Classmates, as UCC matures and develops in the future, so will we. So look ahead to your own future as well. The next few years of our lives will be unlike anything we’ve experienced before, and we should all be excited to be standing on the doorstep of the next stage of our lives. As I look through the doorway into the mysterious and intimidating beyond, I know I walk through the storm with my head up high because of everything UCC, and all of you, have given me. No matter what we do, no matter which path we choose, the way this school has shaped us, the way these teachers have shaped us, the way our parents have shaped us, and the way we have shaped each other will allow us to succeed.
For that, I will be forever grateful to all of you, but I’d like to thank a few people in particular on behalf of our graduating class — to our families for your unwavering love and support through good times and bad, and for paying the bills — guess that one’s kind of important. Thank you to the faculty and staff of the College — to both those with us today and in memoriam of those who aren’t — you go far beyond the call of duty every day and show a level of genuine care that we could not appreciate more. And the biggest thank you of all goes out to my classmates, for placing their trust in me. It’s been an absolute honour to represent you all. Thanks for making our time at the College into such a fantastic experience. Oh, and thanks to all the girlfriends and/or boyfriends in the audience. We know dating a UCC boy is definitely not easy. I promise we’re worth it.
There’s a motto written on the left breast-pocket of all the students in the audience. It reads Palmam Qui Meruit Ferat. This translates to “Let he who merited the palm bear it.” While I’m all for individual achievement, I don’t think this motto really does the Leaving Class of 2014 proper justice. So I decided to make my own version of the UCC motto, that in my mind is much more applicable for this amazing group. I’m probably about to completely butcher this pronunciation, so I’m going to apologize to Ms. Erb in advance. And a shout out to Josh Caminiti for translating for me. It reads “Palmam Omnes Simul Qui Meruerunt Fera.t” It means, “Let all those who have merited the palm bear it together.” Gents, over the years we’ve spent at this amazing institution we’ve all merited the palm, and now it’s time to bear it together with pride and confidence for the years to come.
Congratulations to the Class of 2014, and thank you.