Premier Dunkley Speaks At Saltus Graduation

June 5, 2015

Premier Michael Dunkley spoke to Saltus’s graduating class of 2015 yesterday [June 4], offering inspirational words and recalling his own time at the school by saying, “Saltus helped me grow.”

Premier Dunkley said, “Who would have thought 50 years ago, when I entered Saltus Primary, that one day I would be speaking to you tonight as the Premier of Bermuda.

“I can assure you not one of my teachers, nor perhaps even Deputy Head Jon Beard more recently, who coached the football team I played for as a young man after returning from university 35 years ago, would have predicted that.

“Thankfully, Saltus helped me grow. Teachers laid down the stepping-stones to the real world and said ‘pay attention.’ I learned how to add and subtract, how to spell, how to write; and how to conduct myself with others.

“I began to develop an appreciation for the wider world through new subjects and new ideas. And I came to understand that my education was important; that it was meant to help me stand on my own two feet.

“When schools work, they are incubators of talent and skill, of curiosity and knowledge and social awareness – all of it working together to help students to build within themselves the discipline and confidence to move forward with their lives, and to rouse their dreams and ambitions.

“From my perspective, as a student and as a Bermudian, Saltus continues to achieve these vital things.

“I can say that because I’ve seen in recent months the good work of the school through many media stories about its students and graduates– one becoming a Rhodes Scholar, another a contestant for Miss Bermuda; an actor trying to break into the Big Time in LA, Outstanding Teen award winners, and even one alumni getting a tryout with the Denver Broncos, living his dream of making it to the NFL.

“What these stories say to me is that Saltus is doing exactly what it was founded to do – equipping each of its students to find their way.

“Saltus is a great school and long may it continue the good work, which, I believe is ultimately about building a better world through the fine young men and women it sends forth each year.

“This evening, I want to speak to the graduating class about that world.

“My intention is to offer words of encouragement to help you face the challenges that will inevitably rise up before you, and to know the goodness and particular talent that lies within each and every one of you.

“It is not an easy world, but it is one that holds endless possibilities for you.

“As the Premier, I speak with many people day in and day out about Bermuda, the world today and the future, and I am struck by how many see it as a dangerous and threatening place.

“They speak of terrorism and the clash of civilizations, global warming, economic uncertainty, failed states, instability, opportunity and advancement. The list goes on. I understand the anxieties.

“Threats do exist, and they must be managed and turned back, but I see nothing fundamentally different than what has gone before. There have always been outrages, uncertainties and threats.

“But I see too many people consumed by the negative, giving in to pessimism; who see the glass half empty. And you can see it leaking into public discussion here at home. My challenge to you today is to not give in to the negativity. Negativity saps valuable energy and can create a state of mind that is tough to rebound from.

“There is another way to look at the world, because there is another reality – a reality that is more positive, more promising and more real because it is based on global trends that are setting people free to live as citizens of the world, contributing to its wellbeing in new and innovative ways.

“In this reality, the glass is not just half full; it is brimming with amazing possibilities, possibilities that are part of your world, possibilities that are within your grasp.

“I see a world where freedom of choice continues to be greater than at any time in history, where economic expansion across the globe is helping more people live better lives than ever before, where health outcomes are improving, where traditional borders are becoming less important, less impeding; where communications is obliterating geography, where people can be closer to one another on a scale that was unimaginable just a few decades ago.

“It is a world in which individual freedom is taking on a three-dimensional quality, where one voice – your voice – can ride the wave of astounding technological advances, to join with others from around the world to speak out and reach out on any issue in any place at any time.

“It is a world in which the compassion that lies within the soul of each person can be brought to bear with greater impact than ever before; where media reporting of calamity in any corner of the globe can be answered with direct action at the click of a mouse, as so many Bermudians did recently to support the victims of earthquakes in Nepal.

“It is a world in which the search for solutions to the big issues of our time – climate change, deforestation, the spread of deserts, water production and alternative energy brings people together as fellow citizens working together in a truly global village.

“No one can predict the future with any certainty but the trends today are positive.

“We are living through one of the most sustained periods of economic prosperity worldwide. Without discounting the severity of economic hardship here at home, more people in more places are living better quality lives than ever before.

“Democracy has been spreading. Where there were fewer than 20 democracies in 1946, there are now more than 100. This trend has coincided by a decline in authoritarian rule, falling from 90 countries in 1976 to about 20 today.

“And though it may not seem so, it is a fact that we are living in an age of decreasing violence, with dramatic reductions in war deaths and violent crime. It may all be due to the fact that we are getting smarter. IQ tests show that the average teenager is smarter with each generation.

“And we are living longer, due to tremendous strides in medical technology and health care. In 1947, global life expectancy was 47. We are living in an age of hyper ingenuity and innovation that is revolutionizing the way we live together.

“I see a world of increasing complexity. To those with untrained eyes, who see the world as becoming bewildering complex, it will seem as though we are moving from the predictability of a square dance to the anarchy of a mosh pit. But to the young men and women of this year’s graduating class, you are already creatures of this brave new world, equipped with the basic skills and mindset to take it on.

“Change will be the only constant, but you are perfectly positioned to move forward with it, like a surfer catching a wave.

“In saying goodbye to Saltus, you will be taking your first steps into the wider world. I say embrace it. Open your eyes to possibilities. I understand that all 53 of you will be going on to further education; I urge you to think of it as a giant buffet. Be hungry, be curious, sample things, fill your plate. Think: ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained.’

“University is a time to explore and to find out. Don’t leave it with regrets that you should have tried this or that, but never did.

“Your aim should be to find what you like to do and to pursue it. But don’t get hung up on having to make the right career choice the first time. You’ve got plenty of time to make the decisions that are right for you.

“Whether you pursue medicine or photography, chemistry or computers, helping the poor or making money, know the importance of being passionate about what you do.

“Know the importance of getting up each morning wanting to go to work. Know the importance of getting paid for doing what you like to do.

“Some of you may think what I’m saying is obvious, but I’ve seen too many people who get their degrees only to end up in jobs that have nothing to do with what interests them. It happens to a lot of people.

“For many of them, for any number of reasons, it is an acceptable fate, but for you on this day when your whole world lies before you full of possibilities and dreams, it is something you will want to guard against.

“Today you are starting the journey of the rest of your life. In this journey you will be tested and challenged all the way – in your skills, your beliefs, your values, your choices and your dreams. How you respond to these challenges will be the story of your life.

“You can rely on your education and the people you trust to help you get through these tests, but the most important thing you will need is character. What do I mean by character?

“Character is what you are made of. It’s the thing that gets you up off the ground when you’ve been knocked down, to try again. Character makes you stand up for what is right. Character is the courage to stop a bully.Character keeps you at your desk until the work is right. Character, in the moral sense, helps you to do the right thing in any situation.

“Apply your moral character and it will be the cement that holds together the building blocks of your life.

“Martin Luther King Jr. understood the importance of moral character. He said:

“The function of education… is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals. We must remember that intelligence isn’t enough. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only the power of concentration, but worthy objectives on which to concentrate.”

“Character says who you are. It can carry you through all the challenges in your life, but you must remember that character – moral character – is not a given, it is a decision. It is something revealed in the moment, in how a person responds to a situation.

“As you go forward, your character will be tested. How you react – if you react – is up to you and you alone. There will be situations where you will see right and wrong hanging in the balance, and there will be the opportunity to quietly turn away.

“There will be situations where the consequences of stepping forward will stop you in your tracks, or where you have no option but to deal with it head on.

“In whatever situation that arises, you will always have the opportunity to do the right thing. That is when your character will come to the fore.

“Now, as each of you gets ready for the journey ahead, I urge you to consider some of the lessons and insights that I picked up on my own journey:

“Believe in yourself. Believe in what you’re doing. When you believe in yourself others will also believe in you. Persevere, sacrifice and work hard. Nothing truly meaningful comes without those commitments. Show up on time, have good manners and treat people with respect. Relationships are extremely important. They can reward your life all your life.

“There will bumps on the road. Don’t be afraid of failure. Failure is often the stepping-stone to success. Use it to grow and be better. And don’t forget to have fun. Nothing makes sense if you don’t have fun.

“Finally, as Premier, I would ask that you help Bermuda. You are the next generation, and very important to the future of the Island. Many of you will be learning skills and gaining experience that can be benefit others, either through public service or your work as private citizens.

“Bermuda needs competent, committed people with a can-do spirit. The Class of 2015 fits that bill, so please never forget Bermuda. Help build your Island home.

“I would like to close by congratulating all of you on your achievements, and I wish you the very best going forward. This is a world of amazing possibilities and you are at its threshold.

“The future starts now. Be good. Enjoy the journey.”

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Comments (6)

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  1. San George says:

    George Bush said “C” students can be President.

    • Or, Union leaders :-(

      • Someone has a hair across their, “you know what” :-(

      • With so many of u’lot that are opposing my personal views, I’m starting to feel like our friend E.W.B. feels / felt :-(
        Well, since none of them puts food in my stomach or a roof over my/ and families heads or money in our pockets then you know what they too can do right? (fill in the blank) “_ _ _”

  2. robbie says:

    Talk about an enlightening speech for the graduating students. Well done!

  3. MAKE MY DAY says:

    Premier Dunkley… Your father was in the “milk business” in those days – I guess buying from David Lopes (ZBM’s “early bird”) and perhaps others – when I graduated back in ’67!! Hard to believe I left Saltus back in ’67 and the Island for 10 yrs in’68!!

    The short period of “time” we are allocated on this planet – does pass very quickly!! BUT…I still have a 50 yr old “track-and-field” record at Saltus – going back to 1965 – in the Grp “D” discus – when I smashed the “old record” by 25+ ft!!

    Don’t believe me – then call Jon Beard!! Bob Alger was the sports instructor/master in those days… I also hold the BDA Grp “D” “Inter-school-sports” record as well!! Strange how these accomplishments are soon forgotten!! (50 yr old sports record)

    That should “jog-some-memories”!! And yes – I do live in Arizona and both my sons graduated from the U of A (Tucson) with their “Business Degrees”… One now also has attained his “Masters” in Business and works for a Silicon Valley business!!

    Just an up-date from a “proud father”! A lot of people did NOT think I was going to amount to much! GOTCHA!! NEVER SAY NEVER!!

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