|1 Jan 2023|
SHS Foundation Day Speech - Rob Middleton, School Captain class of 1972.
October 11, 2022
Dr Jaggar, Ladies and Gentlemen, Students.
Thank you very much for asking me to deliver the Occasional Address in this Foundation Day Assembly.
It is a great honour to return to the school, and to witness the changes, and reacquaint myself with the things that have remained as they were 50 years ago. In 1972 I stood upon this stage delivering my farewell speech on behalf of our final year which was then called 6th Year. It was quite a forgettable speech in all honesty and so today I will attempt to deliver thoughts with greater substance.
Today we are about to acknowledge leadership with the presentation of badges to the prefects elected for the remainder of this year and for 2023. This group is selected for possessing leadership qualities which are to be admired and respected.
However, looking out at the faces in front of me, I am aware that each and every one of you has already been selected. You all have been identified as someone possessing potential to achieve and lead, if one so chooses. It is NOT a gift, rather, an opportunity.
You are all potential leaders whether it be in a chosen field of study, a profession, a trade, an artistic or musical endeavour. Whatever - it matters not. Being selected does not ensure you will succeed, It just tells you that you could. 50 years ago things were slightly different.
In the late 60s SHS was only partially selective and also a local area high school. If you lived near the school it was highly likely you would be able to attend that school. In our final year, the careers advisor was an eccentric and passionate teacher whose name was Laurie Booth. He also taught leather work to the first year (Year 7) students at Bourke St Public School!
One day Mr Booth approached me in the corridor and said “ Middleton, do you know that your year at Sydney Boys’ High School is in the unique position of being the least selective in its entire history! “ I took heart in the fact that he did not say “least intelligent”, just least selective!! Then he chuckled and added…but you can sure play rugby.
What defines a good leader? In my opinion, the most essential ingredient is the respect that one must have for one’s team. There can be no leader if there is no team. This person must be chosen to inspire and guide the team to achieve its greatest potential. Winning may be a satisfying by-product, but is not necessarily the be all and end all.
We currently in the world today, have examples of leadership which has ignored their team. Dictatorship is not leadership. One person cannot occupy all the positions upon the field at once. Leadership has never been more important in the world than it is now.
So, who is in the team that we all have to lead today? The team is now “ society” in general”. The natural environment is in the team. Respect for the colour of one’s skin, is in the team. Respect towards the traditional owners in whatever country one cares to mention, is in the team. The sexuality of a person is in the team. Life on this planet is in the team.
The strength of character you can gain from the enormous opportunities presented to you by Sydney Boys High School will place you very well into society and help you meet these team challenges. I believe we must have respect for history. This is another essential leadership quality.
I would like to close my address by recalling a memorable event that happened in our final year at SBHS. A visit to address the school was arranged for an elder statesman politician. This person was in his time, both respected and reviled. He was dismissed from his government with the confidence of the lower house, by a vice regal representative, and he suffered a crushing defeat in the ensuing election.
And no… this was not Gough Whitlam. This man was Jack Lang, who was the Premier of NSW following the Great Depression. He was in his early 90s, when he visited the school. It was living history of great importance that was honoured and respected on that day.
I mention this because he was a leader who passionately believed in his vision for the team - the Nation, not just the State of NSW. However as happens in democratic processes, not everyone had the same beliefs. The will of the people was respected by Mr. Lang and both he and the Governor maintained a respectful friendship.
So, in finishing I would like to encourage you all to think big think … create achievable goals, take advantage of the wonderful facilities and resources available to you at SBHS… forge strong friendships, and be a respectful Leader!
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