I was a guest speaker recently at the New Zealand Career College (Wellington campus) graduation. My brief was to acknowledge their hard work and achievement, to be brief, and I gathered I was there to break up the proceedings, i.e. for ‘entertainment’. What is the medium I was using to get a message across to my audience? I had a stage, me, and a microphone. In many ways, this was solo theatre without props or lighting and sound effects. Like a stand-up comedian, but not really. I also had to decide what to say that would keep the attention of graduands and their supporters, would be somewhat meaningful, and would present me as a professional in the way I am trying to be perceived (my ‘branding’, as my 23 Research buddies would know). Here is the text of what I decided to do (it altered a little as I went), and yes, I did sing the karanga and the ending song, and yes, I did mime the boxing and the skipping. The written word doesn’t show the experience as well as video would, but I was too busy giving the performance – I mean speech – to be videoing myself! I got good feedback, so personally I was pleased with how it went.

Haere mai, haere mai, haere mai!
Haere mai ra e te manuhiri tuarangi e!
Haere mai, haere mai, haere mai ra!

So there I was, standing at the waharoa, the marae gate, listening to the karanga of welcome, in amongst a group of fellow students, waiting to go onto the marae. This is not the beginning of the story, nor was it the end, in fact, it was was right in the middle of the story, and it was exciting. I had chosen to do the course in Te Reo Māori knowing that it involved a noho marae, so it was my choice to be there that day. I knew that I didn’t have to respond to the call, I could get in my car and drive away, but since I had wanted to learn more about Te Reo Māori, since I wanted to extend my education in this direction, since it was MY choice to change the story of my life, there was no way I was going to back out now. Besides, I was in a whole group of people, and it would have been awkward to leave. That’s the advantage of doing education in groups.

That is my story, one of my stories, one that I will pick up again in the future. For the moment, my story is extending in different directions. All of you here also have your stories that have led you to this point, completing a qualification with the New Zealand Careers College For some it is a change to your life story, for some it is a continuation of earlier choices. But for all of you, to get to this point required you to have made decisions and then to have put in the work, and for that I congratulate you.

Earlier this week, I was privileged to attend my son’s drama class monologues. One of the boys in the class wrote a monologue about Floyd Mayweather, a world champion boxer… or should I say, The World Champion boxer. Kurt Sarney(1) did a wonderful job of showing how Floyd’s success was not simply due to good luck or a little bit of talent. He showed this by interspersing short monologues telling the story of Floyd’s life with a simple active chant. He put his boxing gloves on, and went to the hanging bag and started boxing: “Hard work – Dedication. Hard work – Dedication. Hard work – Dedication.” After more monologue, he used a skipping rope. He was turning it so fast we could hear the sound of wind as it turned: “Hard work – Dedication. Hard work – Dedication. Hard work – Dedication.” We got the point. To all you who are graduating today, you must have also got the point. It is about “Hard work – Dedication”.

Today, then, my story and your story intersect and interact. How will we affect each other? There are many possibilities, but they still rely on our choices in the here and now. As all of you go out into jobs in the business or early childhood sectors, your story will interact with others. What sort of story do you want it to be? It’s your choice. The circumstances you have to deal with are not your choice, but how you build your own story is your choice. I especially want to emphasise for those of you working with young children, how important it is when your story intersects with theirs – you become part of their formative story. A very, very, very important part of their story. What sort of story are you going to make it?

Finally, remember that these stories of ours, they have many chapters. In fact, they don’t really end, and our stories continue long after us. Think of your grandparents’ stories, and the stories of your ancestors whenever they came to these shores and wherever they came from – these stories influence your life. This reminds me of the children’s song that so many of us know:

This is the song that has no end
Yes, it goes on and on my friend
Some people started singing it not knowing what it was,
And they’ll continue singing it forever just because
This is the song that has no end
Yes, it goes on and on my friend

(1) Kurt Sarney is a very enterprising young man, having started up a clothing design brand called K!S clothing. Check him out on Linkedin: Kurt Sarney