Speech at the Annual Speech Day of St Paul’s Convent School
26 November 2009 (Thursday)
Annual Speech Day of St Paul’s Convent School
Speech by Mr Michael M Y SUEN, GBS, JP
Secretary for Education
Sr. Margaret Wong, Rev. Mother Jacqueline Ho, Distinguished Guests, Parents, Teachers and students:
It is a great honour for my wife and I to be present at such an important event of your lives, to witness a milestone achievement that you will remember, and cherish, for many years to come. It gives me a great deal of pleasure to have the opportunity to speak to you as your guest-of-honour.
Let me begin by first congratulating you all. Whether you have completed Form 5 or Form 7, last year must have been especially tough for you. Under normal circumstances students sitting for the HKCEE or the HKALE are well sheltered from the excitements and disappointments of events in the world stage. They just concentrate on their critical revision plans and examination sessions. But you were materially affected by the sudden outbreak of the swine flu as classes were suspended and some examinations re-scheduled. Although you may not have been personally affected, your families must have felt the ill-effects brought about by the global financial crisis, sending the rest of the world scrambling for cover.
You might feel that you have been unlucky, but I beg to differ, because you have proven to yourselves that even with the presence of additional adversities that you were able to maintain focused, have faith, and earn the right to become a “graduate”. You have gained an extra “badge of tenacity” compared to your predecessor graduates.
I believe most of you here would continue the pursuit for academic excellence for another few years. I hope you will not forget just how tough it was last year, how much extra efforts you had to put in to adapt to, and to counter the disruptions placed upon you through no fault of your own. This is your cohort’s exclusive right to remember, to revisit, and from which to derive the extra strengths and determinations that you might need in the face of future adversities. I have full confidence that because of what you have been through, that you will be the ones still standing when others would have fallen.
Some of you here have sailed through years of academic assessments with ease, while others might have struggled since the first day at school. But to the principal and teachers, family and friends, to me and to the rest of the society, you simply belong to the same group of; young, talented individuals, destined for a remarkable journey ahead no matter what paths you choose to take. You simply belong to the same group of Paulinian graduates – with that added badge of tenacity that I mentioned.
St Paul’s Convent, throughout its long history, has successfully nurtured generations after generations of outstanding individuals like yourselves. I know this for a fact because I have had the privilege to work with quite a few of them, or rather, generations of them. I also got to know a few of them quite well. Then of course I also know this by scanning the long list of distinguished alumni names through Wikipedia on the internet.
I want you to take a good look at all those sitting around you now. You should realise that the people in this hall have helped you in some way or another throughout your time at school. These help and support could have been intentional or unintentional, conditional or unconditional, but help they did. And I urge you to show your gratitude towards those who helped you, for without them, you would not be where you are today, and probably not where you want to be tomorrow.
The world you are entering will be a big, diverse and ever changing place. You will share this place with people of different cultures and races, speaking different languages and carrying different beliefs. The deep rooted school motto of “Omnius Omnibus” will no doubt serve you well, as you should have already mastered how to be all things to all people, irrespective of their race, religion and social status.
As regards social status, don’t forget that your own status will be changing too, at times unnoticeably slow, at other times dramatically quick, like how it has happened today.
So, new graduates, armed with swords of academic excellence, shields of the Paulinian sisterhood and branded with the motto of “Omnuis Omnibus”, it seems that you are well geared to launch into the battle for success in the outside world. Some might feel that all is already won and that you can sit back, relax and reap the fruits of labour from all the hard work you have put in thus far. I am sorry but it is anything but, as the real battles of success and failures have not even started.
What you have experienced so far have been mostly well planned classes, exercises and sparring practices performed within the confines of the Convent. What awaits you on the other side of these walls are often unplanned lessons of life where no school will force you to attend, exercises at work where no teacher will give you a grade, and competitions with friends and foes where no judge will decide who wins. The things you choose to do and how well to do them will very much be decided by you. As you graduate, you will be entrusted with a new degree of freedom and power to choose and decide what to pursue and how you wish to pursue them.
This gift of freedom and power you have earned come part and parcel with the burden of discipline and responsibility. I am sure that you are all wise enough to see that freedom without discipline leads to chaos, while power without responsibility can only lead to destruction.
To illustrate the above, I would like to use an example. I would like to mention an alarming trend that has developed rapidly within the teenagers’ community; Drug Abuse.
An increasing number of young people have fallen victims into the lure of Ketamine abuse. This relatively new type of drug has infiltrated beyond the protection of schools and the aura of love and care of families. This seemingly cheap, quick and undetectable form of escapism has misled, and destroyed the futures of too many innocent and curious adolescence.
Cheap it may seem, but the true cost only becomes apparent with the evaporation of opportunities and dreams that were once within your grasps.
Quick it may seem, but as the seed of addiction is sowed, it will take years of painful rehabilitation to uproot.
Undetectable it may be at first, but signs of destruction will reveal themselves through the irreversible degeneration of your bodily organs, turning young, healthy human beings into sick, soulless zombies.
So, I plea to you graduates today, that you should remember to keep freedom in check with discipline, and to control your power through responsibility.
Sometimes even after considering the above, bad choices will still be made. That’s okay, just remember to learn from them so you will not repeat the mistakes. Through mistakes you can learn, through learning you can develop. I wish you all the best in your quest to develop yourselves into the future pillars, towers and beacons of the society.
To all the parents, I hope for your continuing love and care to these young graduates, guide them in making their choices as they develop, be their cornerstones on which their success will be built upon.
To St Paul’s Convent, on behalf of the administration, I thank you once again for nurturing and delivering to the society another group of stars of our future.