A pleasant morning to all of you my dear classmates, teachers, friends, and all to all the parents here.
Ms. Avic, my name is Gen Mark Tanno. I am answering the question you asked when I first came to Southville. I don’t know if you still remember, but the first time I came here seven years ago, you asked me what my name was. I didn’t even know what your question meant so I didn’t know how to respond to you. And as I look back to that fateful day, seven years ago, I know that standing here today is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the many people who have accompanied me in my educational journey.
Today is a celebration. Today, we, the Grade 6 and 7 students celebrate all the hard work we have done. We celebrate all the exams we have answered, all the projects we have created, all the requirements we have completed. We celebrate the poems we have recited, the formulas we have used, the solutions we have finished, and the cultures we have imbibed. We celebrate the notes we have sung, the lines we have drawn, and the recipes we have cooked. We celebrate the many days and nights we spent working towards becoming better at what we do. We celebrate the transformation each and every one of us had gone through. We celebrate what we have achieved and we celebrate the infinite possibilities that await us. We celebrate what we have become.
When I was still young, I dreamt of doing many things. Back in Japan, my first dream was to become a bus driver. In my class, there was a dream tree and there I wrote this dream – bus driver! As every day, I rode the bus, becoming a bus driver was to me the ultimate job. After a while though, I realized there were bigger dreams. I learned more things, I still wanted to be in charge, but this time I no longer wanted to be a bus driver. I wanted to be an airline pilot. But then, I asked myself, “Is dreaming enough?” I told myself that if I want to be what I set out to be, I need to have goals and work towards achieving these goals.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in the poem Success wrote,
Were not attained by sudden flight
But they while their companions slept
Were toiling upward in the night.”
I am not a great man, not yet, but I know I would someday be. We would all someday be great men and women. I believe everyone has the capacity for greatness but this would require constant toiling: toiling while the others are sleeping. This means more hours of study, more hours of work. To reach monumental heights require monumental efforts. It means taking the quality of your work a notch higher. This means having the consciousness to do more than what is required, to achieve more than what is expected.
But it’s not just about the numbers and the words. Southville has also taught me the importance of respect: respect for people and for property. I also learned how to respect people’s feelings and opinions. I learned how important it is to have tolerance for other cultures or beliefs. Southville has taught me how to be able to relate well with different kinds of people. It has also allowed me to have many friends. You know who you are already. Having to constantly work in group settings, I was able to hone my interpersonal and leadership skills. I can either lead or follow. I learned to be truly responsible; I learned how important it is to be always responsible. Respect, responsibility, relationship: I moved on from Senior Prep to Grade 6 hearing, seeing and living these words. They were not mere concepts to be recited; they were ideals that defined the life I must embrace.
I am not a great man, not yet but I know I would someday be. We would all someday be great men and women. However, it is not enough to just be great. We must be more than that… we must be great men and women with hearts of service. We must be aware of our potentials to effect change in the world. But we cannot do that if we are not aware of the kind of influence we can wield.
When I did my PASS research, I saw a world very different from the kind of world I live in, the world we all live in. As I had to compare the numerical literacy of students in a private and a public school, I had to go to a public school. For the first time in my life, I saw how a public school looked like inside. I talked and listened to the students who were in 6th grade like me. I saw how respectful and well-mannered they were. I also saw how little it took to make them happy and how little it took to make them smile. When I had my oral defense, I was already a very different person. My interaction with the public school students was truly a humbling experience for me. I felt humbled realizing that the woes I had were nothing compared to what the students I met had: that while I was thinking of which place to go for fine dining, they were worrying about whether there would be food on their tables. That while I was diligently studying every night, some of them would have to spend their nights plying the streets to sell their merchandise. That while I worry about what the future may be, to them even the present is uncertain. I realized how truly lucky I am compared to them. I realized how privileged I am to be studying in an international school. It made me grateful that my parents are my parents. More than that, it made me appreciate my parents even more for making sure that through Southville I get the best education I can get. I became more appreciative of the things I used to take for granted. After the experience, I have also come to an awareness that I have to do something. Something must be done for these people and for all those in similar situations. I realized that we who have more in life must learn in our hearts that we have in us the capacity to make life easier and more meaningful for those who are socially underprivileged. We must be agents of social change. So for this experience, I’d like to say thank you to my PASS teacher, Ms. Joji and my PASS adviser, Ms. Laura.
At this point, allow me to thank my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Yusuke Tanno. Dad, itsumo ite kurete arigato. Hanarete itemo, shimpai shite kurete arigato. Hanarete itemo, kokoro wa itsumo hitotsudes. Okikunate mo, kono kimochi wa wasuremasen. Honto ni arigato! Mommy, thank you for supporting me always. You have always been there to help me and guide me every step of the way. Thank you for teaching me how to be a good person and how to value my friends. Thank you for reminding me to always work hard. Thank you for being my personal driver and cheerleader. Daddy and Mommy, you are the best!
As we continue with our educational journey, let us not forget what Michel de Montaigne has said: “We readily inquire, ‘Does he know Greek or Latin? Can he write poetry and prose?’ But what matters most is what we put last: ‘Has he become better and wiser?’ We ought to find out not who understands most but who understands best. We work merely to fill the memory, leaving the understanding and the sense of right and wrong empty.”
I challenge all of the graduates here today: Let us not be content with filling our minds with memory. Let us work towards understanding for only when we understand do we truly become great men and women. Let us be movers of society and together let us effect change.