Declan Dempster (Class of 2014)

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Hiya, so as Mr Armstrong said, my name’s Declan and I started at Scots in 2000 and graduated in 2014. So as I understand it, I Pic Websitewas asked here today to talk to you all in order to build student relationships with alumni and I was given 15 minutes to build such a relationship today but don’t worry I won’t take all of that time, so sit back, relax and probably block your ears! Apparently, we have attention spans of 8 seconds now, but I’ll try and reach an entertainment level of at least sub-par to mildly interesting to really try and drag that out to 10-11 seconds. So back to my who am I; since my graduation I worked in Albury for a bit, then I travelled around Europe, a little of Africa, worked at a pub in Ireland, then travelled around some of America, then back to Ireland again, then I came home to Australia this year to start studying an Arts degree at Monash.

So yes that’s just about my life story to date but to try and save you all from falling into the mindless state of sleeping with your eyes open, I’m going to cut to what I was asked to talk to you about! I was asked to connect any of my most recent experiences with my time at school, of how the lessons I learnt at Scots have since been applied in my life; now to paraphrase that, I believe it comes out as, how has Scots made me World Ready? How’s that for a plug!

Now that’s a tough question for a 21 year old and I wondered how I was going to start this speech off and thought I’d go to the source of all knowledge, The Scots School Albury website. They define world ready as being prepared, educated, resilient, world-class, confident and ready for their future. I then decided that wasn’t the best place for me to start considering I prepare for very little, I’m educated about less, resilient only when I want to be, am far from world-class, confident only when ignorant and sure as hell am not ready for my future.

So I needed to change my tact a little and then it came to me! How Scots made me world ready! It was on one of my first days after flying into Paris and Em and I needed to eat. So we wandered off to the local supermarket to get some food and they were selling chicken breasts for 3 euro but they had a 10% off sign and Maths made me world ready because I knew it was 2.70 each. So thank you maths department.

Seriously though, how does Scots, in my experience, make you world ready, and my response would be that it doesn’t. Nor can it. Not in the sense of being ready for the world, being able to take it by storm, much like Richmond has taken the AFL by storm. This big abstract, undefined thing called the world that we’re being crafted towards will undoubtedly break you in some sense. So you aren’t world ready because in that particular battle of wills, the world will win. But then again, you are because being world ready is not about winning but surviving. I believe that is the philosophy Scots is trying to instil in us all, so maybe, just this once, trust your teachers.

Speaking of teachers, I’ll move onto one of those big life, learning, leading lessons I’ve taken from school into my life. One of my teachers once essentially told our class that if you’re going to fail, fail spectacularly. Obviously at the time, they were referring to our work but it can easily be extrapolated to a range of real world applications.

For example, I decided I could hike Mount Olympus in Greece in one day, I was really desperate to get to the peak and meet the gods however, in my excitement I realized I only had 90 minutes to get back to the last bus to the city, when it had taken 8.5 hours to get that far. Luckily whilst on my frantic running descent I met a Sweddish couple at base camp that drove me to the bus stop!

Moral of the story: Take the risks, be willing to accept failure and you might not get what you expected but you might still get lucky!

The other thing about failing spectacularly is that sometimes if you’re brave enough to do something knowing you’ll fail, you’re failure can give others the courage to try and succeed and that’s a pretty special thing. That’s being world ready, knowing that failure is very much ok! Another example, I started writing poems during my travels and they’re really really terrible but I just don’t care! It’s brilliant to be able to learn, create and experience things knowing that no one is going to judge you for it and no one is going to critique your understanding. I think if you can try and hold onto that through high school, that learning is not about assessment but experience, then you’ll be ok, because failing is ok. I keep using the word failure but perhaps a better phrase is it’s ok to not always succeed.

Too often we don’t do things out of fear of judgment but this world is not such a scary place and you’ll learn very very quickly that the people in it, are just prone to mistakes, just as scared and just as normal as you are. So go big, pick a dream and grasp every opportunity with your hands, teeth or whatever else will latch on. Go take on the world because Paris is just another Albury for Parisians, for London is just another Albury for Londoners. And worst case, absolute worst case, you put your tail between your legs and come home, re-gather and try again!

On that point, as I’ve seen across the world and as you all do know, we are so privileged here at Scots. It is your obligation to take advantage of these opportunities we’re all given and Scots gives you plenty. I’m not saying you have to go and do medicine or get a 99 ATAR, I’m saying you have the rare chance of being able to do whatever it is you want to do, whether you’re a poet, a truck driver, an actor or an academic. Find something you love to do, something you’re really passionate about and go all in.

High school is inherently a process that builds towards you siting your HSC and getting the best ATAR possible. But Scots offers so much more than that because the world is a lot more than that. At the end of the day you will finish your exams, you’ll be ok, you’ll go out into the workforce and you’ll discover no one cares about your ATAR, you go overseas and not only does no one care, no one knows what an ATAR is, even if you go to university, surprise, surprise no one cares about your ATAR, to be honest, I’m less sure that university is about academic strength so much as liver strength. What people do care about is you, the factors that all come together to help you reach your fullest unique potential. Granted, in some scenarios, your academic success may be one of these unique factors, but its only ever a factor, a miniscule part of the painting that splatters the canvas of your life.

Very quickly, on the subject of academics, I would really encourage all of you to pay attention in English, learn what the passive voice. I promise you that it doesn’t matter what you do, it will give you a huge advantage over everyone else. Secondly, just something to keep in mind; in the long haul, it is significantly more important to learn how to think rather than learning what to think.

Next, I’d like to touch on something that has been integral to my understanding of what being world ready is.

Now, I didn’t learn this at Scots, in fact it probably contradicts what I learnt at Scots. Schools are unfortunately an incredibly competitive environment in almost every possible sense of the word and that drove me anyway to try and be better and unique and different to everyone else. Then I left highschool and for a time, I lived in a town called Galway and in said town I met a girl and yes before anyone asks, I did write the lyrics for Ed Sheeran and yes I am now a millionaire. But last year I had to pick which country I would be going to university in and I was 100% committed to not choosing Australia.

So next time I saw this Galway Girl I told her and she asked me why I decided to go and I couldn’t really give her any reason other than because it’s different, because no one else from home has done it. And I will never forget how she looked at me with what I can best describe as pity and she said to me the most profound thing I’ve ever heard that I will carry with me forever. She said “Declan, there is no shame in being normal. There is nothing to pity in happiness”.  She’s studying medicine but they must teach their doctors to be philosophical heavyweights because that really shook me; never before had someone so concretely challenged my beliefs like that and after about 10 seconds of processing, my mindset, my ways of thinking just flipped and I started looking at people and situations in a very different light.

But I think that’s an incredibly important part of being genuinely world ready, is understanding and accepting that you don’t have to be Dux, you don’t have to be first chair in Orchestra and you don’t have to win the 100m sprint to have value, the only person you have any obligation to impress is yourself. However, if you can be Dux or you can seize greatness by all means reach for the proverbial stars as I hope you all do, just know there is no shame at all if your hand falls short, for you can always reach again.

The point I’m trying to make, is whether you realize it or not, Scots is priming you for success. The wonderful thing is, that the success is not strictly academic, or sporting or musical. The success you’re being primed for is whatever success story you want your life to be. Scots is making you ready for the world and the plethora of paths your life could take by equipping you with a skill set that is applicable across all of them so you can reach whatever your potential may be and hopefully be a little bit happy!

So they got me in to talk about how Scots makes you World Ready, but, honestly, I know nothing being world ready and as far as I’m concerned neither do your parents and neither do any of your teachers. If you want to be world ready, you have to go out into the world and form your own conclusions and beliefs. Now that can be a pretty confronting thing to do but it’s also exciting, so embrace adversity, be resilient and grow as a person.

It’s hard to really attribute any experience or lesson I’ve learnt back to Scots but I’ve tried to link some things that have happened back to it but I won’t lie to you writing and talking about this topic has been really tricky and I’m not sure I’ve really attributed enough of what I’ve done to the school. But what I can say with absolute certainty and truth is that Scots has undoubtedly provided me, like it will all of you, a resolute foundation of resilience and confidence that makes you world ready. With it you can apply to elite universities across the world, you can hike Mount Olympus, you can march against Trump with the women of DC, or you can even see Russell Crowe wandering the streets of Milan in his Rabbitohs hat. I may not be able to tell you why, but I can honestly tell you that moving forward, thanks to Scots, you are only constrained by your imagination.

Now a goal of this was to build connections between alumni and students so please if any of you ever want to talk about anything or have any questions please feel free to message me, as I’m sure you can tell I love the sound of my own voice so I’m always up for a chat!

And with that, I’m going to conclude my speech with two points that at the end of the day is why I think you are and can be world ready.

Ultimately, I think being world ready is about being passionate, you don’t have to know what you’re passionate about just to be a passionate person. Why? Because passion is productive. Scots definitely taught me that, from the Pipe Band, to my teachers, to the choirs and all the co-curricular activities we have available here. Not only is passion productive, it is a lot more fun way to live as well and people generally respect you for it! So get out there and do things!

So for my final, most important, genuine and serious point, some of you may have noticed the distinct lack of mentions the Pipe Band got in my speech and some of you that remember me may be thinking ‘hey that’s a bit out of character’, but I decided not to really include the Pipe Band experiences in my speech, from learning discipline, professionalism, leadership, teamwork and actually being independent in foreign countries, but I’m not going to go into that because then I’d need a semester of assemblies and nothing else would get touched on. But I shall rectify the situation somewhat and tell you that if you really want to be world ready, well there’s only one thing for it; and that’s, as always, to join the pipe band.