I am extremely happy to be here with you this morning, on this very important day in your lives. I am extremely happy because one of the things I am dedicated to doing while I am President, is reaching out to and chatting with young people. And so, when the school invited me to be here to chat with you this morning, I couldn’t say “Yes” fast enough!
I’m not going to give you a long speech this morning – but there are a few things that I’d really like for us to chat about, and that I think we do need to chat about, as you prepare to leave this school that you have known for most of your life, and get ready to continue your education at a new one.
There are actually three things that I’d like to chat with you about: the first is “Family”. The second is your “Friends”. And the third and the last thing that I’d like to chat with you about is “You”.
So, “Family”, “Friends” and “You” are what I’d like to discuss with you this morning.
Let’s start with “Family”. I am sure that everybody understands the basic idea of a family – in some cases, a family involves two parents one side, and a child or children on the other. In many cases, it involves only one parent (we refer to them as “Single Parents”) and then, the child or children. In other cases, it involves no parents at all – just the child or children, and an adult relative – like a Grandmother or a Grandfather, or an Aunty or an Uncle. Any one of these combinations is what we sometimes call the “nuclear family”.
But there is also what we call the “extended family” – and today, I want us to think of our “extended family” not just as our parents and relatives, but as all of those adults whom children love, and who love children, and who sacrifice for children, so that children can be “All That They Can Be”.
So, in this category, I want us to think of our extended family as including persons like our teachers. We all have our favourite teachers – we know that these teachers care about us, and we like how they make us feel important and special. So, I’d like us to think of teachers like that, as being part of our “extended family”.
And what I’d like to chat with you about in relation to “Family”, is how important it is for you to discuss with your extended family – your parents and relatives at home and your teachers at school – all of the things that worry you or concern you as you prepare to leave this school.
I can imagine that there might be quite a few things that might worry you or concern you, as you leave this school.
You might be concerned about leaving behind your classmates many of whom became your friends and whom you have known for years.
You might be worried about whether you will make new friends, like the ones you have now, in your next school.
You might be concerned about whether you will fit in to your new school and whether the teachers there will like you, like the teachers here do.
In a word, you might well be anxious about “change”.
“Change” is a very powerful word. It is easy to say, but sometimes it is very difficult to experience it. I can tell you that we adults often have an extremely difficult time adapting to change. We see examples of how difficult change is for adults, in the quarrels and the wars that adults have all over the world. So, what I am saying to you this morning about change, are two things. First – don’t feel badly if you, too, like so many of us adults, are anxious about the changes that are coming when you leave this school. I can tell you that when I became President, I felt a lot of anxiety over that change in my life, too. So, being anxious about change is natural and nothing to be ashamed about.
The second thing that I am saying about change is that whenever you feel anxious about changes, discuss them with your family – including your extended family of those teachers who you know love and care for you. As President, I would love to be able to discuss them with you, myself – because as I say, I am dedicated to reaching out to and chatting with you. You can even think of me as part of your extended family. But because, on most occasions, you will have to write me a letter and have it delivered to my office in order to get to speak with me, it might not be practical all the time for you and me to discuss these things together. That’s why I’m suggesting that you discuss them with your parents and relatives and your special teachers, instead. It is really very important that you don’t keep your concerns bottled up inside of you. It is very important that you speak them out, in words, and that you do so to the adults around you who love and care and sacrifice for you, and who always have your best interests at heart. It is therefore very important that you discuss your anxieties with your “extended family”, in the way I have described that concept to you this morning. Believe me when I tell you – the adults in your extended family all have a lot of experience in dealing with anxieties brought on by changes.
The second thing that I’d like to chat with you about this morning is “Friends”. All of us have them – in fact, life would be rather difficult without them. They are the ones whom we laugh with and enjoy things with – like playing games, or going to the beach or just hanging out with. The thing about “Friends”, though, is that sometimes, especially when they come together in a large group, they might do things that we are not quite comfortable with – things that we know our “extended family” would tell us we shouldn’t we doing – but that we feel we have to go along with, in order not to be called names or made fun of or feel like we are the ‘odd-ones-out’, or that we are strange, or that something is wrong with us.
And so, what I’d like to say to you about “Friends” this morning, is that it is always a good idea to let your “extended family” know who your friends are, and to listen to your “extended family’s” advice about your friends. Trust me – if your “Friends” are really nice people, your extended family will know it and they will tell you so. And, on the other hand, if your “Friends” are really not nice people at all, your extended family will also know it and it is a really good idea to listen to them if they tell you so.
I want you to remember, though, that sometimes, even “nice” friends put pressure on you to behave in a way that you, alone and by yourself, would not behave. We call this concept “peer pressure”. And, as you start to settle down in your new schools, “peer pressure” can be extremely strong, and you can find yourself feeling forced to do things you feel are not right, simply because you want so badly to fit in to your new schools and make new friends there.
“Peer pressure” can also come from social media – like ‘Tik Tok’ or ‘Facebook’ or “Instagram”.
Whenever you feel “peer pressure” in any way, one of the best things you can do before you make any decisions, is to talk things out with your “extended family”. You will find that you can avoid making some really bad mistakes, if you discuss your decisions with your Family before you make them.
And even if you think that you’ve already gone ahead and made a really bad mistake, you should still discuss it with your “extended family”. Don’t lock them out. You will be surprised to find that your extended family will still love you, when you make mistakes. I can tell you that for certain, because when I have made mistakes in my own life – and yes, even Presidents make mistakes – I have found that, when I don’t lock them out, my extended family is a great source of support and encouragement. I am sure that you will find the same thing, too.
The last thing I want to chat with you about this morning, is the most important thing of all – “You”. The theme of our Graduation Ceremony this morning is “All That I Can Be”. The “I’ in that sentence, is “You”. What your school wants for you today; what I, as President, want for you today; and what the entire country wants for you today – and for every day of your life – is for you to be all that you can be. And I’m not talking here about becoming a doctor or a lawyer or even a President. I am not talking about what type of job you want to have – I am talking about you, deciding for yourself, what kind of human being you want to be.
Do you want to be a kind and a brave person, who shares what he has with others and gives generously to his friends, and who takes part in the activities in his school? Or do you want to be a selfish and a greedy person, whose main focus is herself and who couldn’t be bothered when the people around her need her help?
These are really big questions – and again, even some of us adults have not always been able to answer them properly. But, if you want to be “All That You Can Be”, I am afraid that now is the time for you to start answering those questions about yourself.
What kind of human being am I now, and what kind of person do I want to grow up to be? Nobody can decide that for you. Only you can decide that. No book that you can read, and no movie that you can watch, can answer these questions for you. You have to just close your eyes, stay really still, and ask yourself those questions in your mind, and then feel what the answers are in your heart.
I hope that your answers are that you prefer to be kind and brave, and loving and considerate, and compassionate and caring, rather than being selfish, or greedy, or cruel. If you answer these questions in that way, I can promise you that you will help us adults build a better, and a safer, and a kinder country for everyone to live in.
And so, those are the three things I wanted us to chat about today – “Family”, “Friends” and “You”. I am so grateful that you have listened to me. I am almost finished, but before I go, I would just like to say a special thank you to your school – to your Principal and your teachers, and all members of the school staff – everybody: from the Principal to the ancillary support staff – for making this day possible for you, and for making your school the wonderful, happy school that it is.
I would also like to thank your Parents. Parents, I know that you supported your children in their preparation for the SEA examination fully – so much so, that at times, it must have felt like you were the ones writing the exams! Thank you so much for your support.
And so, my Dear Graduating Class of 2023 – let me end now, by saying how proud I am of all of you. I know that you have been under tremendous pressure preparing for your exams. Now that you have put those exams behind you, you have earned the right to relax and to celebrate. So go out and do just that!
I can’t wait to chat with you again in a few years – and to see how you are becoming “All That You Can Be”. If you can just remember the three things we talked about today – “Family”, “Friends” and “You” – then I know that you will keep going onward and upward and make your parents, your teachers, the country – and most importantly, yourselves – very, very proud in the years to come.
So, thank you for listening, and enjoy the rest of the Ceremony.