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Graduation: Dover Class of 2016 student speech

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Raphael Bijaoui, Speaker for Class of 2016, UWCSEA Dover

Graduation: Dover Class of 2016 student speech

Distinguished guests, friends, and proud parents of the distinguished guests,

Hello, ni hao, shalom, salaam aleikum, asamabhou,...

Before I begin, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank those who made us this hot mess of fine, culturally diverse students, sporting garments that, thank heavens, just about covers our mid thighs.

The backbone of all of us students, our parents, thank you for teaching us the invaluable lesson of perseverance by never letting us win an argument. Thank you for letting us be children, only to remind us with time to straighten up and *try* become the adults we are today. Thank you for giving us confidence and above all, thank you for being there for us.

Thank you to our teachers, who gave us strength in times of stress, gave themselves to help us grow, and for not batting an eye in the face of coursework completed the night before.

To the UWC spirit, thank you for teaching us that it’s not about the goods we buy, but the good we do that counts.

To the UWC community, who relentlessly strived to help us on a daily basis, selflessly putting a smile on our faces, thank you.

That goes to our Sodexo staff who, although broke our hearts in middle school by removing our beloved Sprite and Coca Cola, taught us the true value of a no-strings-attached relationship by bringing back our garlic bread.

Our facilities workforce, thank you for executing the multi-year renovation plan so pragmatically, to ensure we enjoyed our last 6 months within the school to the fullest.

And to the heroic, unintentional arsonists over the past couple of weeks- thank YOU for giving us a couple more minutes to question the meaning of life during that fateful Physics exam.

Finally, to the Class of 2016, after instigating thousands of hashtag trends, scaring hundreds of heads of grades away, and 20 whole months after our principal started the leaver’s week countdown in assembly, here we stand. Thank you for being that weird jumbled mess that is everything in between. The siestas, and the fiestas, the overachievers and the believers, the sleek and the undertakers of not a project for the weak.

Some of you that finished exams may have recently indulged in the sweet feeling of recycling, disposing, or even sacrificially burning notes that you feel are no longer needed. I too experienced this sentiment recently, as I completed stage 2 of convincing my 13-year-old sister that “one day, you’ll thank me for these notes on Section A”

Emotionally shuffling through the stashes of question banks, unsuccessful EE print outs, and overly-bubbly university handouts, I chanced upon a book I borrowed from school in Grade 9. Whilst my immediate reaction was fear, as I imagined the incoming death threats from our school library, I eventually saw the book for what it truly was- a thrilling, epic, Indian comedic drama none other than... Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard.

Long story short, and according to my sub-par GCSE English notes, Kiran Desai writes about a young, imaginative man with a penchant for reading gossip and dancing disrobed, who, finding his heart’s desires, flees his village for a guava orchard, stays there, temporarily is seen as god-like, and, as expected, heroically becomes... a guava.

In many ways, I find a lot of inspiration in Sampath. Whilst I can neither confirm nor deny an affection for dancing disrobed, or of one day potentially, maybe, evolving into a glamorous, gossip queen, I will say this- there is something greatly admirable in Sampath’s unending pursuit for the guava, a symbol for his freedom.

Firstly, there is the Sampath that finds his heart’s desires within the guava. For some, that will be an easy task- if not done already, and for most, such as myself, finding our inner freedom is something we may still be deeply searching for. Finding our hearts desires, lies in firstly recognizing our values, and once doing so realizing what there makes you happy, and what we’d be willing to devote our life towards.

It’s tough, but I think it’s there. That guava is hiding somewhere deep within the cracks of our lives as of yet- be it in the way we presented our stellar Grade 5 exhibition, our angsty and excessively embarrassing Grade 8 films, or the passion we once exhibited singing the leavers song in Junior school, and the passion we displayed hearing it, only a few weeks ago.

Next, we have the Sampath that, recognizing his love for the guava, says, whatever, I’m going to the orchard.

That’s my favourite attribute of Sampath, and, it’s something that, in Yiddish, we like to faithfully call Chutzpah.

Chutzpah, is the confidence held in many of us grade 11 global concern members during the Nepal Earthquake as we dropped all that we had on our plates knowing we could make a difference to our extended family in Nepal.

Chutzpah is when, despite the mountains of social and academic responsibilities imposed upon you in the start of Grade 12, you showed up to the auditions for the Hawaiian dance for UN night, and proclaimed that indeed, your hips DONT lie.

Chutzpah, class of 2016, is when, being told that you had 4 months to work on your Extended Essay, you sagely looked at your supervisor in the eye and said - “thank you, but all I will really need, is the night before”

Without a doubt our class has ample chutzpah embedded in our system, and so, may we, with the same nerve, have the chutzpah to go out there in the world and fight to reach our own guava.

Once we reach out for what we truly believe in, I think it will only be a matter of time until we succeed, as we saw with Sampath, when he reached the guava orchard.

But soon after that, we saw a new Sampath, one that was swayed by the profits and power dangled in front of him by the people proclaiming he was god-like.

Knowing all of you extraordinary people, I can say that in our lifetimes we also will encounter plenty of moments where we feel that we have “made it”, much like today, and much like that time in Junior school when you deservedly wore the Grade 5 badge. By all means, we should appreciate those moments, for we put our heart and soul into them, but let that not make us complacent, as we lie suspended on the orchard.

Equally so, many people will have sky high expectations of us, like we saw with how the villagers saw Sampath as “god-like”, but let that not alter who we are or make us afraid of moving forward. In today’s modern age of likes, loves and “wow”s on social media, there is no denying that that is becoming an increasingly tough task.

But let that social pressure not change who we are and our pursuit for that coveted guava, for, as a saying in my Jewish faith goes- “we came from nothing, and are going to a place of dust”- so let’s not spend time getting hung up on what others expect of us and instead, make the most of the meaning we create.

Class of 2016, this array of actions, experiences and memories that we made over our time here, that is the foundation of who we are. That is our inner freedom, and finding it, may not be an easy task. But once the time comes that we truly do find our inner freedom, let us not let it go, for that inner freedom is what will guide us as we journey across the path through life, this time without the option of so easily turning back.

And so in the same way as Sampath, realizing how the hullabaloo changed him, ultimately turned into a guava, Class of 2016, I too wish that we have enough insight to, against any challenge the world presents us, embrace it to become our own guavas. To become the embodiment of our lifelong passions, joys and dreams amongst any type of adversity lying in our way.

In ten years time, when we reunite and dwell upon the journeys of the future astronauts, architects and archaeologists in this room, there will be one common thread that will link us together, and that is our undying UWC spirit to stay true to ourselves, fight for what we know is right, and remain the brilliantly unique, Phoenix-loving graduates from the charming old place sitting on 1207 Dover Road.

Thank you.

Raphael Bijaoui 
Speaker for Class of 2016
Dover Campus



15 Jun 2016
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