Premier Addresses BHS 2016 Senior Graduates

May 26, 2016

[Updated with photos] Earlier this evening [May 26], Premier Michael Dunkley was the guest speaker at the Bermuda High School Senior Graduation ceremony.

The Premier addressed the 30 IB programme graduates and around 400 people in attendance. The Premier’s message to the young graduates was one of perseverance, encouragement and to continue their stride towards academic excellence.

Premier Dunkley’s remarks in full follow below.

Good evening Board of Trustees and Head of School, Mrs. Linda Parker. Thank you for the honour of joining you on this Big Day in the life of your fine institution, and especially in the lives of your 30 graduating IB students.

Congratulations to all of you for completing a very challenging academic test.

BHS is now in its 122nd year of existence – an old school by most standards – and yet its reputation as a trailblazer in the pursuit of academic excellence and personal development for its students is unquestioned – as alive today as it was in 1894.

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Indeed, I see BHS as one of the enduring anchors of Bermuda life, nurturing generation after generation of young Bermudian women – and more recently young men – who’ve gone on to live fruitful lives through standards this school set for them.

Pull back the lid and BHS is about eliminating barriers, it’s about empowerment and fair opportunity; it’s about making sure everyone gets the chance to reach their full potential.

In 1894 and beyond, this was not on the cards for women in general. Few lived lives outside the home. Few earned a decent wage. No one could exercise democratic rights. The vote was not theirs to cast.

BHS, by graduating young women with knowledge, skills and ambitions, played an important role in helping Bermuda break with a past that shortchanged the lives of many. It’s not the whole story of our progress, but it’s an essential part of it.

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The founding of BHS carried forward a point that remains deeply relevant to Bermuda today and beyond, and the point is this:

Everyone counts. Everyone is important. Everyone has a role to play. Everyone can contribute.

We are better, stronger, smarter, more capable and more together if everyone gets the chance to realize their potential, and not just in their schooling, but also in the workplace and in their private endeavours.

The strength of a community is built on the strength of its people. When we take down barriers that hinder personal progress, then we give ourselves the opportunity to fully bloom as a people – more capable, more resilient and more unified to deal with a demanding, ever-challenging world.

BHS is certainly doing its part to prepare young Bermudians to take on that world.

I understand that here at BHS you were the first to bring the International Baccalaureate to the Island, exposing students to international standards, and the discipline needed to meet those standards.

And you were the first and only school to adopt The Round Square programme whose ideals of understanding and tolerance, environmental stewardship, self-discovery and service provide a framework for young people to build a future that is collaborative, compassionate and just.

Late last year, I had the pleasure of listening to the Youth Parliament Throne Speech delivered by our Youth Premier and one of this afternoon’s graduate students, Miss Namrata Bisht, whom I later invited to shadow me for a day as I went about my duties as Premier.

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Namrata’s speech brought forward issues young Bermudians care about, including the need to protect our environment, access to tertiary schooling and protections for the mentally ill.

In retrospect, I see that your speech reflected the BHS ethos with its spirit of tolerance, acceptance and compassion and its belief that we need each other to progress – that ‘no man is an island’.

Carrying those values and principles forward will make for a better world, and I am confident that you, the Class of 2016, will do so.

But I would be remiss today if I didn’t warn you that the world is not an easy place. It’s not going to lie down for you. It’s not going to be all kumbaya. There will be struggle and there will be setbacks, but there will also be goodwill, progress and personal validation.

The beauty of your education is that you are developing the skills, understandings and discipline to move through this challenging world, on a path of your choosing.

Starting this path is a big step, and I’m sure you’ve already felt anxiety and excitement that comes with it – I certainly did – but it’s a life-enhancing adventure, worth pursuing for you, your family and families not yet born.

With that in mind, I’d like to pass on to you some advice that has helped me and might help you along the way:

First: Be true to yourself.

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Pay attention to what really matters to you. Don’t be afraid to step away from the crowd. That takes courage, but it’s the path to inner peace, better decisions and self-fulfilment.

In the working world, it’s the path to enjoying what you do each day, and that’s important.

Some of you may think I’m making an obvious point, 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, it seems to be an acceptable fate, but for you on this day when a world of possibilities lies before you, it is something you will want to guard against.

Second: Be positive. Be optimistic.

When you look around the world today, it’s easy to become negative. There’s terrorism, failed states, global warming, political gridlock, the Zika virus, extremism, economic uncertainty… the list goes on.

Yes the problems are significant, but here’s something to keep in mind: They’ve always been significant, for every generation. That’s the way of our world.

There is another way to look at the world because there is another reality that is positive, promising and real. It is based on global trends that include you.

The reality is that you belong to a generation that is smarter, better equipped, better trained, more connected, more open and more accepting. Your world has more democracies than ever, more prosperity, better medicine, less disease and, though it may not seem so, less violence.

You live in an age of ingenuity and innovation that is revolutionizing the way we live. What you can do from your cell phones and laptops continues to astound older generations who remember life in the analogue world, just a few short years ago.

This is an age of amazing possibilities, and while I am not one to predict the future, the trends today are positive.

My challenge to you then is not to give in to the negativity that’s so rampant today. It’s easy to criticize and be cynical, it’s better to be positive and optimistic.

Three: Be curious, look around.

Think ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’.

For those who are heading off to university or college, enjoy it, embrace it. This is your time to explore and to find out. Don’t come away from it regretting that you should have tried this or done that.

Find what you like to do and pursue it, but don’t get hung up on making the right career choice right out of the blocks. Take the time to make the right decisions for yourself.

Four: Work hard, persevere and be prepared to sacrifice.

There’s no getting around this one. You need to put in the time to develop skills and knowledge to levels that people will want. No one can do it for you but you.

As Thomas Edison said: “There is no substitute for hard work.”

It may not be fun, but the rewards of hard work are big – a clear conscience, self-confidence and maybe even a good mark.

Things will not always work as planned. You will have setbacks, so be prepared to tough things out.

Don’t be afraid of failure. Failure can be a stepping-stone to success. Use it to grow and be better. And never stop believing in yourself. When you believe in yourself others will believe in you.

Five: Be diligent. Be responsible.

Little things matter; show up on time, have good manners and treat people with respect. Relationships are extremely important. They can reward your life all your life.

And don’t forget to have fun! Nothing makes sense if you don’t have fun.

Finally, as Premier, I would ask that you think of helping Bermuda. You are the next generation and very important to the Island’s future.

Many of you will be learning skills and gaining experience that can benefit others, either through public service or your work as private citizens.

Bermuda needs competent, committed people with a can-do spirit.

You fit the bill, so please never forget Bermuda. Help us continue building our Island home. We can always use a hand.

In closing Class of 2016, let me thank you for the opportunity to address you tonight.

You’re on the cusp of a life-changing journey, all of you, whether you’re heading to university, a gap year in far off lands or a job. The first step in that journey will be taken right here today when you walk off the grounds of this fine school, whose teachers have opened your eyes to an exciting world brimming with possibilities – for you, your classmates, for everyone. Make the most of it.

Congratulations again on your achievements. I wish you the very best. The future starts now.

Enjoy the journey.

Thank you.

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Comments (6)

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  1. Its me again says:

    Is he going to speak at the public school graduations as well?

    • flikel says:

      I was thinking the same.

      • You Can't Fix Stupid says:

        Do you honestly think he just showed up at the school and told them he would like to speak at their graduation? If you want the Premier or the Opposition Leader to speak at a graduation or any event for that matter, you send in a formal request well in advance.

        Believe it or not the protocol was the same for Paula Cox, Dr. Brown, Jennifer Simmons, Alex Scott? Do you think they decided to just show up and speak at public or private events? No – they were invited.!

        Geeesshhh…some peoples children.

    • double s says:

      If he is invited. Commencement speakers don’t invite themselves.

      That’s how these things work.

      But I digress. Continue on with your silly little insinuations.

  2. moonbeam says:

    An excellent address by Premier Dunkley – a man who ‘practices what he preaches’ and who is highly respected as an adept, capable leader. Congratulations and best wishes to the BHS graduates and good luck in their future challenges.

  3. BIR Priss says:

    If Michael Dunkley is asked to speak at any Government School Graduation of course Mr. Dunkley would be delighted too. But I doubt he will ever be asked by any Government School. WHY because he is the Premier.

    Congratulation to BHS you all have a bright future of ahead of you and will succeed in your careers.

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