This term, 2017 College Dux Thomas Cantwell addressed students and staff at the Semester 1 Higher Achievers Morning Tea. The function is held each semester to recognise the top ten students in each year level for their academic excellence. The students were also recognised at the whole school College Assembly.
The following exerts are from Thomas’ speech that highlight four lessons learnt during his time at Whitefriars College.
“We must account for our uniqueness and individuality when we journey through education, as each of us finds success through different means. We have to figure out what our own specific learning style is – and use it fearlessly. The fact that you are here today, demonstrates that you have found a way of learning that suits you. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t grow, develop and evolve as independent learners.”
“My older sister Felicity, is a much more traditional and careful soul than myself. Throughout Year 12, she rarely went to parties. She cautioned me during my own Year 12 saying that I needed to push all my focus on my education and rescind my social life. Felicity is an immensely intelligent individual, who was very successful in school, but she didn’t understand my need for balance. Finding the right balance is one of the most complex tasks you will grapple with and no one can tell you what is right for you. However, I would suggest that you resist the urge to party every Friday and Saturday but only as much as I would oppose the inclination to lock yourself in the study every time an opportunity for social interaction arises. The right balance exits somewhere between these two extremities. I cannot emphasise the importance of strong and healthy relationships enough. The friendships that you build in school are crucial. Ensure you are loyal to your friends even when you’re striving for academic success.”
“Some of you may engage in the “us versus them” mentality when it comes to students and teachers. However, the fact you are here today, may mean you have not been drawn into that toxic dichotomy, and on the contrary, have rightly begun to see that teachers are the most valuable asset you have. Indeed, my interaction with many teachers was argumentative and confrontational within my first years at Whitefriars. However, during VCE, after I had matured and developed as a person, I began to build enriching relationships with many of my teachers. Mr Vujcich, Ms Fitzsimons, Ms Kay-Taylor and Miss Cape, just to name a few. As such, my advice would be to act as respectfully and thoughtfully as possible towards your teachers in early and middle school, to let those strong relationships manifest themselves later on in your Whitefriars journey. Furthermore, I would urge you to see your teachers as tools to help you navigate the path towards personal success, even though I understand that such a philosophy can be hard to
personify at times.“
“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard; this idea is so powerful because it challenges all of us. It is a reminder that even if you are highly talented, you can be surpassed by the ‘hard workers’ if your work ethic wavers. For those who work hard to succeed; it is a reminder that devotion and perseverance are fruitful.”
What is success?
“Is success reflected in the score you receive at the end of the year? Maybe it is in part, but it may be a little bit more nuanced than that. Perhaps it is about growing as a whole person. To paraphrase Maester Aemon in Game of Thrones, our time at Whitefriars should be about letting the boys die and initiating the birth of a man. We should use our time at Whitefriars to grow as men who are honourable and loving. We should use this time to build our moral compass and understand right from wrong. To use the Whitefriars words, which are expressed so frequently because they are so incredibly relevant, we should learn to become ‘gentle men’. Perhaps this simultaneous learning; academic and moral, is true success and something I hope you can all embody.”
Thomas Cantwell, Class of 2017, Dux