25 August 2017
Good morning staff and students,
It is a great pleasure to be with you today and I am flattered to have been asked to address you on behalf of my year – the Class of 1996.
Visiting this beautiful school has taken me back to when I first roamed its halls and grounds like the nerd that I still am today. Indeed, I remember sitting my HSC exams in this very auditorium back in 1996, well before any of you were born or there was such a thing as a fidget spinner.
By way of background, I am a Partner and full-time lawyer who heads a small Family Law team at a firm in the city called Taylor & Scott. As an accredited specialist in Family Law, I have also been blessed to be a lecturer for many years at the College of Law as well as on a Law Society of NSW committee that tests other lawyers in the state who want to become accredited specialists. Why am I telling you this? Well, I would like you to know where those achievements actually originated.
I owe this school much by way of gratitude for setting me up for university and later a great, although exhausting career that I just described.
I am not alone, because in my year – the Class of 1996 – dozens of us went into law. Others among us were smart enough to avoid law and its regular 12 – 14 hr work days (I tell you what, that was not in the brochure by the way – it was meant to be all BMWs, yachts and good looking girls from Bethany College), but instead many of my fellow classmates went into such fields as engineering, marketing, accounting, real estate, architecture, published writing, pharmacy, banking and, of course, the one vocation all our parents wanted us to get into…any guesses? Yes, medicine! I think I was “Dr Youssef” in my mother’s eyes while I was still in the womb.
Now, you might think High School is just a big fat pain in the…neck…but the truth is, sometimes you do not really know what you have got until you no longer have it. You might ask, “Mr Youssef (or preferably just Mark), how did Sydney Tech possibly help you in life?” Well, I will tell you my young friends in four simple words by way of example…Three Unit Legal Studies.
Unless I’m mistaken, there is no such subject offered anymore, but back in my day, three unit legal studies was taken on a Friday afternoon, AFTER school. Yes, all four of us students in the class were either crazy or dedicated – or maybe a combination of both, the jury is still out on that one. But it was because we had a teacher, a department and a principal all of whom were focused on helping us realise our potential, the subject was offered, and it fulfilled a personal desire of mine to study law.
In amongst those here today, as well as those who preceded and succeeded us who unfortunately could not join us, every one of them has achieved something if not much in their chosen field. Sincerely, it is hoped your future stories will trump ours a hundred fold.
You are now becoming, or already are, young men. I do not look at you as being kids.
Be proud of your school, be proud of your principal and teachers, be proud of the history you are making, and most of all be proud of yourselves and your efforts. It takes quite a bit to get into this school in the first place as you know, but of course, that is not carte blanch for you to become elitist; rather, simply to appreciate that not all students out there are lucky enough to be in your position. Do not take it for granted.
What I would like you to do, is take time out regularly to look away from your phones, tablets and computers, and remember to make each day count. Your mission each day as a student at this distinguished school should be two-fold:
- Study and achieve. A natural combination where one follows the other.
- As I tell my Master’s students at the College of Law: “BE HUMAN”.
Now, you already know plenty in regards to studying and achieving, so let me explain what I mean by “BE HUMAN”.
Everyone out there is a fighting a personal battle. Sometimes those battles are visible in the form of a disability or outward difficulty. At other times, battles are fought against sadness, loneliness or other emotions. Sometimes things happen in a student’s life beyond their control, such as a breakup in their family or a loved one passing away. Be patient with others, your parents, your siblings and friends, and be the good in this world. Look out for one another.
No one ever worth mentioning in the history of mankind got ahead in life and was fondly remembered by those who came after them by tearing down others. No one ever got ahead by swearing or being violent. Through the course of time we remember the innovators, the intellectuals, the achievers, the dreamers…those who were kind towards and mindful of others. Those who put in 100% all of the time with a pleasant disposition. Those who remember that “manners makyth man”.
You have the potential to make a difference to so many people’s lives. I mean that sincerely. You might not see it just yet, but trust me. You have the potential to make your community, your society and, yes, possibly the whole world a better place.
A show of hands, please: who here knows what they would like to do after they finish High School? [hands are raised] Who here is unsure what they would like to do? [same]
I think it is vital to have a plan and path in life even while at school. Without either a plan or a path, it is hard to arrive at a destination you are going to like.
I advise you to hear what others have to say, let it swirl around in your heads for a while and then make a decision. Avoid being a fence sitter in life. Stay true to your beliefs and your convictions. Do not be swayed or bullied into a position just because it is popular in the here and now. Have courage and be respectful. Be leaders amongst many followers.
Sir Winston Churchill, the great WWII British Prime Minister, once said:
“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference”
Much further back in history, in the fourth century, there was a pope whose name was St Athanasius the Apostolic who, when faced with tremendous opposition at an ecumenical council fighting against the introduction of a major heresy in the faith, was told:
“Athanasius, the whole world is against you!”
“And I am against the world”
So, be of strong character, and also remember this great school is not just bricks and mortar, or a cool new sign out on Forest Road. Its foundations are embedded in hope, hard work and a reputation for making the boys of today into the men of tomorrow.
On behalf of the Class of 1996, always remember to be human and keep making us proud.