Before I began penning this address I had a quick look at a video of the speakers at last year’s function. Zach Martin Dennis, an outstanding young man who finished his time at the College in 2011, quipped that he must have been invited to speak again because of his witty repartee the first time around.
I had hoped to be able to recall some amusing anecdotes with which to charm you, but instead I’d like to take a different tack and read a favourite poem of mine. It’s William Wordsworth’s My Heart Leaps Up.
My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky
So was it when my life began
So is it now I am a man
So be it when I shall grow old
Or let me die
The Child is father of the Man
And I could wish my days to be
Bound to each by natural piety.
The first time I heard the phrase ‘the child is father of the man’, I didn’t understand it. To my teenage self, it sounded trite. On the contrary, now it holds great meaning for me, meaning that grows with the passing of time.
Let me rewind a little. Without a doubt, as a student at Riverview I was immensely grateful for the vast array of opportunities afforded me. I availed myself of those opportunities with gusto debating, mooting, Kairos retreats, the Ignatian Children’s Holiday Camp, coaching a young cricket team, the mighty Ignatian Choir, a music tour, an Immersion experience, and so on, not to mention commitment in the academic sphere. I threw myself into all these diverse experiences that this magnificent institution has to offer, and I loved it.
Yet the appreciation that I have for this opportunity, this education, did not stop there. It is not a memory, a discrete, self-contained period within my life. It is an experience and an opportunity that gains colour, and depth, and meaning, with time. Every day I say that sincerely gain a greater appreciation of the profound and loving gift bestowed upon me by this Jesuit education.
Let me give you some examples. In my Arabic study at university, I call to mind the pantheon of wonderful teachers who guided me through the various languages, particularly instilling in me that often elusive passion for, of all things, grammar. In my legal studies I recall the pleasure I had in mooting, how it taught me an eye for detail and sparked my interest in the law. Recently I travelled to the Middle East to participate in an Arabic debating championship, and needless to say, my experience in debating here was invaluable.
For most people, for better or for worse, their school does not remain part of their lives after Year 12. I am lucky enough to have gone to a school that has stayed with me, and will continue to be a part of my life as long as I live. This sort of education, education of the whole person, is rare. Riverview boasts supremely talented teachers, who have a knack for igniting students’ interest and driving them to perform. Riverview provides an atmosphere that encourages creativity and excellence in music and the visual arts. Sporting coaches encourage every boy, be they natural athletes or less natural ones I certainly belonged in the latter category.
Another unique aspect of the Ignatian education which I cannot neglect to mention is that it is conducted in the context of a faith community. The combination of an excellent education and meaningful pastoral care builds character and moral strength true leadership qualities. To some, this environment might seem artificial. Boys will graduate and embark upon studies and careers in a society that is at least secular and at times, outright hostile to those who hold religious beliefs. Yet this environment is crucial to shaping the kind of men Riverview produces.
Riverview’s role in my life grows and evolves with all the new things I do, the places to which I travel, the people I meet, because Riverview is a part of who I am. The child that I was is father of the man that I have become, because this school was the place where my teenage interests were nourished, and grew into dreams and plans.
I am lucky enough to have gone to this school because I was the recipient of a bursary to have been the recipient of generosity that is beyond superlatives. Well, allow me this one. Short of God’s gift of life itself, and His Son’s death for our salvation, I can think of no greater gift than this Jesuit education.