On Monday last we had hour Leaving Cert graduation ceremony. During this, one of our departing students, Mark de Lacy, gave the best speech that I’ve heard yet from a student.
He has kindly given permission for me to reproduce it here. I hope you enjoy it. The words are nice, but his delivery was astounding.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Parents, Teachers and My Fellow Students,
Good afternoon. I fear that this may drag on a bit but what I have to say needs to be said. And I’m a little nervous so bear with me.
It’s hard to put into words, these last six years. It’s not easily summarized through the English language – through these pages [show pages]. I have been given an impossible task. I’ve been asked to give a voice for others. Being a student in Mayfield Community School, being one of our forty, means different things to all of us. I am not capable of speaking for everyone as I am tasked. I would never want to speak for everyone. In this moment, I can only speak for myself, and I will do it to the best of my ability, but in speaking for myself I want to show to all of you how much this school has meant to me – still means to me. If you can understand the impact this school, this amazing place, has had on me, could you imagine the other thirty-nine impacts it has had on everyone else?
Mayfield Community School is my favourite place in the world. This building, these people – you – are so dear to me. As I stand here and look out, as I see all these familiar faces, as I breathe in the air, it just feels perfect. I genuinely couldn’t imagine it any different. I’m sure we’re all aware that there is a perception held by a lot of people out there about Mayfield Community School – a false perception. Those people that hold are simply ignorant to the truth. They don’t know what it’s like here. They don’t know what it’s like to walk in the doors of this school in the morning and know that you’re going to have a good day. They don’t know what it’s like to have all your friends around you, all the time. They don’t know what makes this place this special, because this place is special and there a lot of people to thank for making it so.
Firstly I would like to thank the teachers and the staff. When I envisioned this speech I thought, “How can I show just how much I appreciate these people? How can I convey how influential they’ve been, not only in my school life but in everyone else’s too?” And the truth is I can’t. What has gone before is simply too much for me to capture with this speech. I can’t do it, just like how I can’t speak for everybody else. And so, to that end, I’m going to need a little help from my friends. Please welcome some of my friends on stage, because we’ve all got something to say.
(At this point Mark spoke directly to a number of teachers thanking them. Other students came up and between them they mentioned EVERY staff member in the school. The name of teachers are omitted here so as to ensure we don’t accidentally omit anyone)
I wanted those things to be read out because you need to know how much we all appreciate all you. You need to know the position you hold in this school – your importance. Especially our teachers, you need to know these things for the benefit of those who will follow behind us, for you are much more than mere teachers of academics. Quite recently, one of you helped me realise something very important. I was in the computer room and our PE teacher, walked in with a few fourth years and put them to work. “Work?” I joked, “You’re hardly going to teach them sir, are you? Sure you can’t teach, can you?” And then from his utterly ridiculous accent I garnered some very important sentiment, “Mark, you see, I’m not just a school teacher – I’m a teacher of life.” A teacher of life. That is exactly what he is – what all of you are. I have learned things from you that won’t appear on any Leaving Cert paper but that will be important in what matters, in the real world. I often get asked, “Who do you look up to most?” and the answer is you guys. You are self-made men and women, good, genuine people – Mayfield people. You are role models to us all – you’re my heroes. Thank you so much.
I would also like to thank the parents – all the beautiful faces. You put us in the position to succeed. You put clothes on our backs, you put food on the tables and you show unworldly selflessness every single day. You’d give everything to see us prosper even if we disappoint you from time to time. Your effort is monumental, your sacrifice beyond comprehension – yet it mostly goes untold. But, I’m telling you now we appreciate everything you do for us. Sometimes we can’t express it like we want to but we know all that you do for us and we cherish it. Thank you so much.
And finally, I would like to thank ourselves – the students. Six years, what a journey. Some have come and some have gone but through it all we’ve always had fun together. It’s hard to talk about memories because we all have so many that are individual to ourselves but I just want to say how great being part of this group has been. Just knowing these people has been awesome. Just being around these people is a privilege. My best friends are sitting in this room and I’ve gotten to hang around with them for hours upon hours each day for six years. It’s made me feel like the luckiest guy in the world. Coming in every morning and knowing that you’re welcomed by the group, by the individuals, knowing that you can have a joke or a chat with anyone – just being comfortable –that’s a great feeling. There are some examples in our year that I believe represent us as a whole.
Darren O’ Brien. I know he is hating that I’m singling him out but I need to do it. If I walk up to Darren at any time in the day and throw a random Game of Thrones quote at him you can just see the excitement erupt in him so that his head looks like it will explode. And that’s what makes him great, and it’s kind of the same with everyone. We all have something in common to talk about, to get excited about. There are so many good people in this group – honest, kind people. But there’s more to Darren. Last week Darren got a place on a Performing Arts course for next year – he’s going to act. In general Darren is one of the quietest among us, but on Friday he performed in class. As he stood there, and spoke the words of Denzel Washington, I was awestruck. I was overjoyed. I was as proud as I’ve ever been. Darren, you’re the nicest person within these walls. And you’re the person I’d like to see do well the most because you deserve it, you’re meant for something special, Darren – you’re meant to act. You inspire me. Seeing you chase your dream and taking steps towards making it a reality makes me want to chase my dreams. But Darren epitomizes us all -we’re meant for something special.
Demi O’ Sullivan. Around Christmas time, out of the pure kindness of her heart, she decided to give less fortunate than her. Basically on her own she ran a shoebox campaign for poor kids in far flung places. She didn’t do it for attention or to make herself look good, she did because she’s a good person – a selfless person. She is inspiring. Once again this group is full of these types of people – nice people.
Rose Butler. Not many ordinary people experience the hardship she’s had to in regards to her health. Yet even less people could come to school like she does in such a positive frame of mind. She’s always friendly, cheerful, kind. She’s never beaten – she’s always defiant. That is inspiring.
Christopher McCarthy. We played football together for years; we’ve gone to school together for longer. In that time I’ve never known someone to be more dedicated and hardworking. There were times this year with the school team, when I’d look at you and just think, “He’s going to put himself into an early grave”. The way you worked, even though you didn’t have to, was shocking. He played for Ireland this year and nobody is more deserving. I was so proud of you for it, because I’d seen it unfold. I’d seen the hard work pay off. You inspire me to work harder every day at what I’m good at, so that I can succeed as well.
We’re full of surprises, we’re full of kindness and joy – we’re good people. Everyday you guys inspire to do better, you inspire me to be a good person, even it’s easier to be a bad one. You’ve all made this the best six years a young boy could dream of. Thank you all so much.
For a long time I thought I’d be the one to give this speech. And I thought I’d give a speech that was becoming of such an experience. I don’t know if I’ve achieved that. I wrote most of this speech a week ago, but speeches aren’t read out from a page, they’re given from the heart. I couldn’t predict how I’d feel now when I wrote this so I’ll try to tell you now, in this moment.
TALK ABOUT THE MOMENT, HOW YOU FEEL.
I think the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley is fitting in this context.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
This is no place of wrath and tears – it’s one of happiness and smiles. But we are the masters of our fates. We are the captains of our souls. We can do whatever we want to do, we can become whatever we wish to become. Because we’re from Mayfield Community School, where amazing happens. We are the bais from the Munt. Six years, I’ll remember them forever. This school defines me now. And I hope this school defines me forever. This school has given us everything. And now we have the chance to use. But first – let’s get locked.
Thanks for listening.