A Previous Graduation Speech-Shared Again
Below is the final graduation speech I gave to the Class of 2021. A recent visit to Newfoundland and a request from a previous staff member has pushed me to share it again. This is one portion of that speech.
Quotations are a very common device to use in a graduation speech and speech writers hope to have a saying, or a line that everyone will remember. Maybe it is from a famous politician, or public figure, a philosopher or religious figure. But the idea is to have something so simple, yet so profound that it gets repeated, and remembered long after the speech is done.
So what would be my quote? What will be my saying? What would I like attached to my name? When students leave Boyne and they think of Mr. Marshall what is it I would want them to remember.
I’m going to guess that you think it is this….
That is a pretty important quote. But, for this one special occasion you are incorrect. I have a different quote to share with you. The quote did not come from a famous politician, or public figure, a philosopher or religious figure. The quote I will share came from just a regular guy, just a regular everyday man, it came from my father.
Education can save your life.
Now, having said about looking to the future, and graduation is all about the future, I am going to go back. and back to the year 2001
In the same year, 2001 that the book was written, another document was written. But I did not receive it in 2001, I didn’t receive it until 4 years later. After my father passed away. In 2005 my family found a document he had written. The document was written in 2001.
The art work that was hanging behind me at the beginning of this talk is a painting of my father. This painting has been hanging in every office that I have worked in since becoming an administrator in that same year, 2001. If you have ever visited me in the office area you would have seen this hanging out with me each and every day.
His writing was about how his potential, was put on hold. After finishing high school, and beginning his life as a young man, his life was put on hold because of the second world war. Sometimes things happen, and we have to pause, we cannot go forward.
He didn’t talk much about the war, he was great at changing the subject if any of my brothers and sisters or myself brought it up. He was a pacifist, he believed in peace, he was a real gentle man. There were events and situations from his time in the war, that he would just not share with any of us.
In 2001 he sat down and wrote out his story. He titled it: I Remember
In his very first lines, he has written. “this is not the usual war story. There is no glamour or daring or heroism”. And that sentence really does describe my father.
As a young man a world event occurred that changed his path in life, it was an event that changed the course of history.
Education Can Save Your Life
And throughout his writing, he comments: Education can save your life. On those nights I wanted to go and be with my friends and not do my homework or attend to my studies, my father would share with me the value of an education.
My father earned his high school degree and studied a trade. He became a carpenter, and he believed that by having this education it saved his life during the war. By finishing his schooling at the time, and developing a skill and a trade, it saved him from the horrors of war.
Once out of school he obtained work at deHaviland aircraft, as a joiner, the British term for woodworker/carpenter, building the wings for the plane the Tiger Moth
He was paid 75 cents per hour and he felt like a rich man. He was happy, he was using his education, doing what he loved and earning money.
In 1939, Canada joined the Second World War. And In August of 1940, the government issued a proclamation that all unmarried men between the ages of 21 and 25 had to undergo military training, in particular infantry training in preparation for any possible invasion of Canada
At this same time De Haviland Aircraft also started making the Avro Anson, and they needed my father for his skills. Since he was a worker with an education in a wartime industry, he was exempt from military service.
He said: Education Can Save Your Life
Seeing some of his friends and neighbours go off to be in the infantry and leave the country, with their futures unknown, my father took his education and training and enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He shares that even though he could be exempt from military service and stay close to home working in a factory building planes, the patriotic climate at the time convinced him that he should volunteer and see where the Air Force could use him.
He was part of the war effort, but his education kept him working and contributing without being shipped overseas or put in a combat role.
He did share that some of his friends from high school, those without a trade or training were not so fortunate, and he did not see them again.
Education Can Save Your Life
If an aircraft was damaged at the station, a crew was sent to repair it on site. If however the crash occurred off station, a salvage crew was sent out to bring it back where it was assessed as repairable or was written off.
My father spent 1941-1945 as part of the ground crew. There was a rule of thumb that to keep one man in the air, required ten men on the ground. My father was one of those ten.
Throughout his paper he continually returns to the comments about education saving his life, but there are lighter moments.
His co-worker and best buddy was nicknamed Tubby, (the men obviously were not so kind in their choices of nicknames) and one day Tubby and my father were sent out to make some modifications to the Norseman float planes. The Air Force wanted cameras attached to the bottom of the fuselage in order to capture Aerial Views of enemy territory.
From his papers he had written about this major contribution to the war effort, “It was a hot, sunny day and as we were entirely on our own, we soon discarded overalls and any vestiges of uniform and worked in our shorts. The water where the plane was tethered was about six feet deep and very inviting. We found that for some unknown reason our tools had the habit of slipping out of our hands and as we could not allow government property to be lost, we had to dive down to retrieve them. A most refreshing day!’
Early in 1944 my father was told to report to the Overseas Posting Depot, and he thought, I’m finally going to England. His education was needed. And it was needed…
…in Gander Newfoundland. As Newfoundland would not become a province of Canada until after the war in 1949, it was outside of Canada and considered to be overseas.
Gander was an important airport. As a final stop before travelling over the Atlantic Ocean it was a busy place. It also was the place where returning planes brought back the Canadians that had lost their lives, or were severely injured. Once again, my father spends time in this section sharing how fortunate he feels for having an education, being able to do his trade and remaining closer to home instead of in the front lines of battle, like so many other young people.
Education Can Save Your Life
Gander Newfoundland’s Airport will become famous again long after the war. The year, 2001. The same year of the book I shared, the same year that my father wrote his memours, the same year I began my administrative career. In 2001, September 11th occurred. It was the airport in Gander Newfoundland that accommodated all the air travel that needed to be grounded that day. September 11, 2001, another day that changed the course of history. My father was so proud that his home in Gander was able to make this contribution.
You may know of the stage show, Come From Away that tells the story of Gander Newfoundland and how the community rose to prominence in their support of people impacted by 9-11. A small town that welcomed the world.
It was in Gander, that my father started to do repairs on the Hudson and Lancaster Bombers.
When my children were little they would stop and point to one of the last remaining flying Lancasters, kept at the Hamilton Warplane Museum. The Lancaster sounds different when it flies, and you can hear it coming. Where we live in Burlington, it flies over many times each year and my children would stop and point and say ‘Papa’s Plane’
So why share his war story?
Why share the story of my father?
It is because of the quote, education can save your life.
I chose public education for a reason. Our school is a reflection of our community, it is a place that welcomes all, all the best things about the Milton Community are inside of Boyne. But as a public school, we do have all parts of the community, the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, and we support and love you all
My fathers story connects to two life changing events, WW2 and 9-11, and this year, we have all experienced numerous life changing events. You will never forget that you are a graduating class, in 2021 when our graduation needed to be done on line.
This year, I have never felt so strong in my belief that education can save your life. The events of this year have shown as all the importance of education.
The events of this year have shown us all that we need well rounded children moving into the future.
Children that are bright, intelligent, but more importantly young adults that are tolerant, compassionate and loving.
I know this is not how you wanted to celebrate your graduation but that doesn’t make your accomplishment smaller or any less significant. You have potential, and the whole world to explore and make better. Right now it probably feels like the world is pretty small, we have all needed to stay very close to home, but the world will grow again. Just like you have. Just like we all have.
We need all of you for our future, it has been a tough year, but education is going to get us through it.
We need the educated to make the world a better place and it begins with you.