School Captain Speech 2019 – Melbourne High School
As Melbourne High students, our success often comes from striving for greater accomplishments, in looking towards the future for an end goal, whether that be an ATAR, a National Rowing Medal, a Royal South Street First Place or even just getting to the end of the journey by attending your last speech night. And that’s just the high school list. Branded as the future leaders, we have a daunting task ahead of us, with solutions to climate change becoming an increasingly immediate necessity, overpopulation requiring the strongest geographical minds and of course the callings of law and medicine which lie at the heart of every tiger mum’s dream. There’s a lot of pressure to do well, more so than the past, and on top of that there’s the life we have to balance outside our responsibilities. Regardless of what optimistic futures await the average Melbourne High student, there is no achievement without hard work, without a bit of temporary pain in the present for an elated feeling of accomplishment in the future. It is this ethos of hard work which is at the centre of every successful Melbourne High student. But what does it mean to be a student at Melbourne High School? Although it is impossible to truly experience all facets of Melbourne High life, I believe this night provides a pretty good summary of what it means to go to a school like the Castle on the Hill.
The spectacle that parents and guests, old boys and new students will witness later tonight was not put on in a day or a week. Singers and the Orchestra put in countless hours over the months to pay tribute to the school but above all to honour the brotherhood that has been fostered here. Undoubtedly to an outsider of Melbourne High culture, a bunch of boys singing will sound strange to say the least, but as you make your way along the journey, you find that the willingness to sing doesn’t come from a sense of self-accomplishment, but rather a sense of camaraderie, in which we all contribute to something far bigger than ourselves. We sing for our mates. It’s something I discovered early on in Rowing as well, where a Bronze at the National Championships was not won through self-motivation, but something greater than any one person in a five-person crew. It was a duty to do the right thing by your friends for your friends, a brotherhood that extends beyond the drive of a singular person. It’s a brotherhood which is ingrained in our history, as hundreds of students signed up to fight for the allies between 1914-1918, not because of some sense of self-gratification, but because of a duty to do better and be better, a calling of an innate sense of community which is not necessarily patriotic, but morally correct nonetheless.
This camaraderie is something which is also reflected in our studies as well through how often a lot of the teaching at Melbourne High may not occur in the classroom, but in study groups during recess and lunch or after school at State Library, where we lifted each other up and made sure no one was left behind. It is this present moment of uplifting camaraderie that you are about to witness which defines Melbourne High more than any sports team, co-curricular activity or academic achievement. Whilst incomparable to the self-sacrifice of those men 100 years ago, I believe that the same strength of brotherhood has not dwindled, nor has our sense of morality and justice. Although the students of Melbourne High have changed throughout the decades, and the world has changed around us, it is comforting to know that at present, the tradition and culture of the school has truly remained strong like its pillars.
Regardless of the strength of school culture, this night releases the Class of 2019 into the wider society, the guidance and restrictions of MHS are removed and we become the sole writers of our own destiny. Many of my friends were suddenly hit with this realisation over the last month, whether it be at valedictory dinner, right after the Legal and Chem exams or even today, when we put on our blazers for the last time. Sung every assembly throughout our time at the school, the phrase “school days are passing and we must away” has never been more relevant than tonight, when our time as High School students comes to an end and we will be finally have become men. In this ephemeral moment when we sing the final e flat note of Forty Years On we join the 30 000 students that came before us. We have all served the school in one way or another, mentoring the younger year levels that sit on either side of us. We have given everything and more not just to the institution, with our academic, sporting and musical talents, but also everything to our peers, ensuring the perpetuation of a culture of hard work and dedication which has set students apart in the real world for generations.
Whilst there is always a place at Melbourne High for us and we will always have our time here as students, this is the last time a lot of us will ever see each other again, and the last time we can say we “go” to Melbourne High. From here on out we will say we “went” to the Castle on the Hill, we “played” in orchestras and bands and “were” Rowers, Basketballers, Cricketers and Cadets. So, in sticking with the present, I’m glad that for one final time as brothers, we can experience the magic of Melbourne High, a place like no other, through doing this one last thing together and celebrating the amazing achievements we have made as a cohort. It’s been a great journey, and whilst we have to start again at University, and our time at the high will seem like a hazy dream, the foundation and family we created here, where we truly just got to be ourselves in all aspects of life, has allowed for us to become the best we could possibly be.
With all that being said, I turn towards the Year 9s, 10s and 11s. Whilst this may be the symbolic benchmark of the Class of 2019’s exit, who are some of the most amazing people I will ever know, this night too is symbolic of the passing of the baton, and reaching the quarter, half and three-quarter marks of your time at the school. Although teamwork is integral and the legacy our exiting class has left you is permanent, the certainty of Melbourne High’s future lays in your hands. With the greater responsibility you have, you can make this place one which you will remember forever, just like the Class of 2019 has made Melbourne High a home which we can always come back to. To accomplish something in the future, you must first look at yourself in the present. Be the change you wish to see in the world. I’ve always held the firm belief that it only requires one act of defiance to make the change you want. As my cohort sings their last song we will truly leave the school, and the adventure we had here becomes the past, we become the past. The present fades away and we are left as old photos and names on a wall. Our time is up, and a name on the wall means very little in comparison to the power to change that lies with the Classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022. It is up to you define what Melbourne High is, and what it can be, and I have a lot of hope for the future of the school because I believe in all of you, even those infamous characters with a few loose screws in their heads.
As I look up into the balcony seats, I remember what it was like in 2015, looking down as a Year 8 hopeful fresh from Darwin. I sat in awe at the magnificence of what a group a people could do, and I want to assure all of you coming next year that you’re in for the adventure of a life time. Among you there is a future School Captain, a future Captain of Boats but most importantly, I’m looking at the future graduates of Melbourne High School, and I hope that when you all finish your time at the school, that will mean something important to you, something which fills you with pride. So, for the final time as School Captain, I’d like to ask everyone, especially the Year 12s, to enjoy the night, to enjoy the present moment, because I can guarantee that there’ll never be a night like this again. We have found our own separate meanings of what it means to be a student at MHS. We have outgrown the school and we can venture unfettered into the unknown future. There’s a great quote from Francois Rabelais, which also happens to be his last: “I go to seek a great perhaps”. It is impossible to tell what the future holds for all of us, and what it holds for the new students entering Melbourne High at the start of next year, but I’m glad that whatever this great perhaps is, I enter it with my brothers from the school.