Maritzburg College Valedictorian Speech by Callum Lee

Good evening, The President of the MCOBA, Mr. Tubby Clayton, association Patron, Mr Chris Luman, Honorary Life members, Executive members, ladies and gentlemen, staff, parents and my fellow College boys.

I would like to start this off by saying what a privilege this is to be able to talk to you tonight. When I first started writing this speech I struggled, I struggled to put into words what this place has meant to me and the rest of our form over the past few years.

Gents, this is it, the final stretch that we’ve all been warned would come so quickly. With only 5 days of school left our days are numbered at this special place.

 For many of us College has become our daily grind and for some, our home away from home. Now with the end in sight emotions have begun to rise amongst us all. We’ve all begun to accept that everything we do now is potentially the last time we do it. These emotions rise because College has given us all so many things to remember and over the past year, we’ve all had to slowly let go of certain emotions and feelings.

Emotions and feelings that only a College boy can relate to, like the sense of pride when we hear college our mighty school and other sacred war dries echoing over the hallowed Goldstones, like the pure excitement and shivers of a Friday night shouting and boot polishing on Clark House quad before a big game, like the nerves of being a junior awaiting a reunion day team testing or forgetting their please when speaking to a prefect.

A feeling unique to college is our brotherhood and strength and of course other schools can convince themselves that they to share a strong bond amongst their friends but the truth is that College’s bond is amongst family.

 We feel a sense of safety and strength amongst one another, we know our brothers have got our backs and we feel strong when we have that badge over our chest and our troops in the area.

No school can compete with the raw and pure emotions and passion shared amongst the college boys on a Saturday afternoon on papes or sitting on basher ridge on goldstones, or anywhere really, because as we all know whether it be for rugby, debating, hockey or tennis when a college boy puts on their red, black, white armor on and the shield and spear sits over our hearts, its becomes our hearts and we become one.

Opposition fear and respect us for this reason, especially on the sports field, as a college boy is not dangerous because he hates what is Infront of him but is dangerous because he loves and is willing to fight till the end for the brothers behind him. There are many things that makes college different from other schools, but I feel that our traditions, emotions, privileges and stories come alive not just through the boys going through their 5 year journey but also the input and legacy of the College Old boys association. Despite us having only experienced a glimpse of 5 years out of 158 years of College history, the time we have spent here can never be forgotten. Our time inside these walls is insignificant in the bigger picture however in our short time here the things within these walls both tangible and intangible have become so significant and sentimental to us all in one form or another. With this being said, our loyalty to college does not stop here, we have the privilege of being a part of something greater, our Old Boy’s Association.

OC’s are a worldwide network and an opportunity to stay in contact with friends, attend events, keep up with the latest updates on college and give back to a school that gave us all so much. The old boys association is always something we hear of in newsletters, over the intercom or in one or two meetings, but the truth is we take for granted the important role they play in the school and our lives in the future. We have very little idea the influence and good being members of this association can do for us.

Having said this, I think it is a wonderful privilege for us all to be able to influence the future of our College by being a part of something greater, to have input where possible and potentially impact the future of College and its boys for the better.

I remember Vietnam like it was the other day, I remember our raw feet from running over the burning tar the day before , I remember the frightening and early wake up and flipping of beds, I remember the long and strenuous tasks we were set to do in the early hours of the morning but most importantly I remember the sense of achievement and unity when Williamson and his fellow prefects came over the ridge and began clapping for us.

As a form we have all come so far since Vietnam and Borver week however we have had some speedbumps along the way. Covid 19 being one of them.

I know most of us are tired of hearing about covid, but I thought it would be fitting to acknowledge the way in which we as a form have overcome and dealt with it. Covid has had a massive impact on all our lives in one way or another and has sent many of us to what our idea of rock bottom would be.

 Having said this, we as a form have bounced back as best we could given the current circumstances. We have come back and continued to excel on stage managing to squeeze in various events like The Afrikaans society tour, we’ve continued to shine in the classrooms, and we’ve still managed to dominate on the sports field with College gaining the most provincial selections in recent times for Rugby. There are several other small but significant contributions our form has made, especially this year.

I would just like to say how proud I am in times like these to be a College boy. We all knew college was resilient when they failed to send us home after countless burning dump occasions and boys fake coughing in the corridors, but College as a whole has shown how resilient it really is during covid and I think as seniors in the school we have done well to overcome and deal with it. We have tried to keep the traditions, privileges and hierarchy intact to the best of our ability.

Gents as I’ve mentioned our time here is limited and soon it will be time to move on, soon it will be time to take that red, black, white armor off and leave it for the new incoming generations at college to protect them and grow them as it did us. In saying this, just because now our time is up, and we have handed over the baton, does not we are losing College. We move on with the lessons we have been taught, the friendships and brothers we have picked up along the way and the unforgettable memories we have made in such a short space of time. We arrived at college as boys and are now leaving as young men and old boys with an undying passion for the school. We can leave College, but College can’t leave us.

Gents we will all remember the words “you haven’t arrived until you’ve left” from Truter, that at first seemed to not make sense but I feel I speak on behalf of all of us when I say these words are as clear as day now. Boys we’ve arrived. We have made it! And what a journey it has been. Going forward I would like you all to remember and live by the words of Max Ehrmann in his poem titled “Desiderata”.

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

In closing I would like to say on behalf of all of us that It has been an absolute honor and privilege to wear the red, black and white for the past 5 years and I urge you all to keep flying the College flag high because even though the shivers of vowing to play our best now belong to the future, and while we may not wear the 3 colors in uniform anymore, we have it in our blood. We have edged our way into the history books of College and that shield and spear has edged its place into our hearts. I wouldn’t change my time, my brothers and my lessons learnt at college for anything in the world and it’s safe to say that we leave here a better person than when we arrived. Whilst our opportunities are all done, we can look back and treasure the time we’ve had here and embrace being an old boy. I am proud to be a College boy and I look forward to working with and through the College network in the near future. In the words of William Ernest Henley, you are the master of your fate, and you are the captain of your soul. Boys I urge you all to finish strong and I wish you all the best for your final examinations as well as the future and I can’t wait to see the many successes that will come from this group.

Pro Aris et Focus.

Thank you.