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Speech

Flaxmere College Senior Prizegiving

Issue date: 
Thursday, 4 December 2014
Speaker: 
Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae, GNZM, QSO

Rau rangatira mā, e kui mā e koro mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou.  E te Tumuaki, me te Poari Kaitiaki, e ngā Kaiako, me nga tauira, o Te Kareti o Paharakeke, tēnā koutou katoa.  Distinguished ladies and gentlemen warm greetings to you all.  My greetings also to the Principal, Board Chair, teachers and students of Flaxmere College.

I specifically acknowledge local Councillors, primary school Principals, kaumatua and kuia, and Ministry of Education officials.

Tēnā koutou katoa, Kia orana, Talofa lava, Mālō lelei, Fakalofa lahi atu, Bula vinaka, Kam na Mauri and greetings.

I am delighted to be here this evening for this senior prize giving.  Some of you may be wondering why I am here this evening.  I have no connection with this college or the area apart from my whakapapa – Ngāti Kahungunu.  In the three years since I became the Governor-General, this is the first senior prize-giving ceremony that I’ve addressed. 

The reason I’m here is because your Principal Ms Louise Anaru asked me along.  Now, other principals have asked me along to their schools, but Ms Anaru was persistent. 

The 30th President of the United States, Calvin Coolidge had something to say about that when he said: “Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.  Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.  The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race”.

However, it took more than persistence to get me here!  My wife Janine and I were impressed with what Ms Anaru has achieved here.  When she was named as a Blake Leader last year, she impressed us with her dedication to excellence, leadership and persistence with education. 

On occasions like this, a guest speaker is supposed to give some words of wisdom or advice to the leavers.  I left school at the end of 1971 – 43 years ago.  You might be now wondering: “Whoa that’s a long time ago, can he remember what happened that far back”.  In part I do.  I left school at the end of the 6th Form – Year 12.  I’d gained University Entrance, and didn’t see much point in staying on another year.

Now, it’s at about this point that Ms Anaru is thinking: “OMG what’s happening, the Governor-General has just said he didn’t think staying on to complete Y13 was necessary and quotes Coolidge knocking education”.  It all goes to prove that you need to be careful what you wish for because you might get it!

At the end of your year 13, some of you might think you have done enough learning and it’s time to do something different.  In my view, you are at the cusp of adulthood, with all its attendant possibilities and responsibilities – and that is a very exciting and challenging place to be.

Some of you may have a very clear idea of what you want to do and some of you may still be uncertain, and that is to be expected.

In my own case, when I left school I wanted to be an accountant.  I quickly realised that sitting in an office was not for me, and I ended up joining the Army.  I totally enjoyed being in the Army – the variety, travel and adventure.  I found it easy to work hard, and success came accordingly.  In 1975 I was selected to do officer training in Australia.  At the same time, I was selected to attend a selection process to be an air traffic controller.  I stayed in the Army, and as they say: “the rest is history”.

My first piece of advice is to keep trying to do better than you have done before, keep looking for opportunities that interest you, and if you go down a path which turns out wrong for you, change direction.  It’s ok to do that.  Sometimes you have to find out what doesn’t suit you before you can identify what will work for you.

Luck plays an incredible part in what happens to us.  You need to be alert to the opportunities that present themselves, and make your own luck.  Achieving success in what you want to do is like luck; you do have to make it happen.  From what I’ve read, students at this school are making their luck and wishes happen.  And so I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the success of rangatahi here and their high achievement at this school, including the head girl Tuakana Te Amoke and Head boy Jahvis Taiaroa.

My second piece of advice is “pay-it-on” advice which I received from my Principal – Mr M.D. Fountain.  I had been a capable student, but did not give my best effort in my final year of study.  In my testimonial Mr Fountain wrote: “Jerry has not found it easy as some to establish his independence as he has grown older without displaying some resentment for the establishment and a certain wilfulness at times.  If directed by his better judgement, as has frequently been the case, this response may mature as a very worthwhile strength of character.  Much will depend upon his goals in life and his choice of friends”. 

Tonight we are celebrating success and the outcome of a lot of hard work, by students and teachers and families.  As the parent of a son who is finishing school this year, I want to acknowledge the support of whanau and the community in helping these young people to reach their potential at the school. 

However, I also want to acknowledge those students, who like me, slackened, were quiet, unmotivated and perhaps plain idle!  Your being here is testament to your character and persistence – well done. 

As you all step out from Flaxmere College I trust your better judgement, which has got you to this point, will prevail in the selection of your goals in life and friends. 

You will get more satisfaction out of completing a serious challenge and achieving hard tasks than simple ones.  And good friends respect your good choices, query your bad choices and don’t limit your possibilities.

Something that has impressed me most about this College is the leadership exercised here.  Leaders lead.  I was heartened to learn that for some people, this extends to getting up at the crack of dawn three days a week to join Ms Anaru, staff, local police officers and students in the CACTUS keep-fit programme.  That’s leading by example.

As Ms Anaru has herself said, everyone has to be on board the waka for it to be heading in the right direction – and the achievements of the senior students at Flaxmere College show that everyone has been very much on board and paddling furiously.

My last wisdom – advice – is based on the whakatauki: Whāia te mātauranga hei ora nga mō koutou – Seek out learning for the sake of your wellbeing.

Learning is not only about education.  Gaining an education can change your life for the better.  It took me almost 20 years to realise that.  However, I’ve always looked for opportunities to learn about situations and people.  Don’t stop learning, keep growing and use learning to follow your dreams.  It’s only when we really stretch ourselves that we learn what we are capable of.

I wish you all the very best with your future endeavours.  Take the very best of your time spent at Flaxmere College; remember the wise counsel of your teachers and the manaakitanga you have received over the years.  Take them with you and become proud ambassadors for the qualities instilled in you here, and do your teachers, principal and whanau proud.

Finally, I wish you all a merry Christmas and prosperous 2015.

Kia ora, kia kaha, kia manawanui, huihui tātou katoa.

Last updated: 
Thursday, 4 December 2014

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