Saturday, November 15, 2008

Graduation Speech at Brandi Secondary School, Wewak, East Sepik Province

I have been invited as Guest of Honour at the 8th Grade 12 Graduation Ceremony of Brandi Secondary School in the East Sepik Province. Below is the speech I will be deilvering.

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Good morning Chairman and Members of the Board of Governors, the Principal, Teachers & Ancillary Staff of Brandi Secondary School, Parents and Guardians, Invited Guests, Families and Friends, Graduating Students, Ladies and Gentlemen!

Today is a very special day in the lives of the young people who will be graduating with Grade 12 Certificates. I feel really honoured to have been invited to speak on this important occasion which represents a milestone in their lives. It is a once-in-a-lifetime occasion, never to be repeated again, so let us all savour the moment with them.

I have a very special message for the students, so I ask for your full attention. In fact, the message applies to all the young people in the audience today.

Before I proceed, I would like all of us to give a round of applause to our Heavenly Father for sustaining us all up to this point in time. It is in Him that we all live, move and have our being. All the glory and credit for the school and the students surviving another academic year belongs to Him.

I would also like all of us to give a round of applause to three groups of people here today:

Firstly the students who have worked very hard to come this far in life. Those of us who have gone through school know that studying is not easy. These students have shown that they are capable by enduring school life for the past 12 years. They are winners, and we are here to congratulate and cheer them!

Secondly, the hardworking teachers and staff. Many of us parents send our children off to school and forget about them. It is the teachers who not only teach the children but shape and mould them in many other ways during the 8 hours of each day they are in school. If you think about it, the teachers spend more time with the students that the parents. They are like second parents to our children. For this they deserve our salute.

Lastly, but by no means the least, we all need to recognize the sacrifices the parents and guardians have made throughout the years, and especially in the last 4 years. Most of you are subsistence farmers who have really broken your backs to see your children come this far. Today is an important day in your lives as much as for your children. Let us therefore give 3 claps for the parents and guardians of the graduating students.

The title of my message to the students and young people generally is, “You’ve Got What It Takes To Succeed.”

I would like to start by reading a verse from the Bible. It is taken from Acts Chapter 17 and verse 26. It says:

“And He made from one [common origin, one source, one blood] all nations of men to settle on the face of the earth, having definitely determined their allotted periods of time and the fixed boundaries of their habitation (their lands, settlements, abodes).

Another translation says “God determined the exact times and places where they should live.”

Students, what each one of you needs to realize is that you are who you are and where you are because of divine appointment – not by the will of your parents but by the will of Almighty God. He determined that you should be born to your parents; He determined that you should be born in 1990s and live in the 21st century; and He determined that you should be born in Papua New Guinea.

So what we can say is this: YOU ARE IN THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME.

Don’t for one moment regret that you are a Papua New Guinean. Don’t for one moment wish that you were born in America, Europe or Australia. Don’t even wish that you were born in the days of your ancestors, or sometime in the future. Let me say it again: YOU ARE IN THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME!

Let me open your mind to see the kind of country you have been born into, to help you understand that you are in the right place.

Our country is uniquely blessed with natural resources such as:

Gas, oil, gold, silver, copper, nickel, forest resources, marine resources, oil palm, coffee, cocoa, copra, vanilla. The list is in fact endless. PNG has been described by a geologist who is an expert in the geological formation of the country as “A mountain of gold floating on a sea of oil”! Think about that. “A mountain of gold floating on a sea of oil.”

If you look at the resource map of the country, you will see gold deposits all along the mainland from the border with Indonesia to Milne Bay. The islands are also gold deposits. There is even gold under the sea. The world’s first underwater gold mine is now being established between New Ireland and New Britain! There are new gas and oil discoveries in the Papuan Gulf and even right here in the East Sepik Province.

This is so much for a country of 6 million people. There is no reason for poverty in this country. People talk a lot about poverty alleviation. I think we are focusing on the wrong area. It creates poverty-consciousness. We should be talking wealth creation instead. It is more positive and truthful. We have the resource base for everyone to become wealthy.

There is no reason for unemployment either. Out of a working-age population of around 3 million, only 300,000 or 10% has a paid job. The majority (90%) cannot find jobs. But that should not mean people sitting around and complaining about it. There are enough opportunities for everyone to create their own jobs through self-employment.

We are so blessed the whole world thinks everybody in PNG is rich. I have had the privilege of traveling to more than 20 countries of the world in the course of my career, and I can tell you that there is no place like PNG. You go to any Asian country and tell people you come from PNG, and they will follow you around to buy their products. They have heard so much about our country that they think if you are a Papua New Guinean, you must be rich. So you can understand why they are flooding in! Most of them come here penniless and are becoming rich right before our eyes.

Papua New Guinea is referred to as the “Land of the Unexpected”. But did you know that it is also the only place on the planet the world refers to as ‘Paradise’? Not America, Europe, Australia or even Israel, but PNG. Everything that resembles ‘paradise’ is here. You put any seed in the ground and it will come up without you having to water or fertilizer the soil.

This is the country you have been born into. People are scrambling to come here, because this country represents the last frontier – a land of opportunities and untapped potential. But you are already here. You are born here. Aren’t you glad? Don’t you feel privileged? Don’t you feel lucky?

I know that the majority of you will not make it to Grade 11 or a tertiary institution next year. In fact, statistics show that 75% of Grade 12s will not make it to college or university. But does that make you are failure? Many people, including your parents and society at large would think so, but I want to assure you that you not making it up the educational ladder does not make you are failure.

We tend to associate education and jobs with success, but if you look closely, some of the most miserable failures in life are the well–educated and the highly-paid. They have been to university and hold jobs but struggle financially and in other areas of life. On the other hand, some of the most successful people all over the world are people who have never been to school or dropped out midway. So please, don’t associate not going to college next year with failure.

What I have come from the Highlands to say to you – and I hope you don’t ever forget - is that whether you make it next year or not, you already have what it takes to succeed in life.

Let me share with you what I call the 5 Basic Ingredients Of Success for any Papua New Guinean. Here they are:

1. You have land, the basis of wealth. If you have some land in your village – and all of you do - it is worth hundreds of thousands of kina. So you are already rich – I should say, YOU WERE BORN RICH.

2. You have a sound mind. The mind is the greatest asset you have, if you can use it to your advantage. Now that you have come this far in school, yours is also an educated mind. You possess something whose power exceeds all the computers in the world put together! Don’t confuse and misuse it by feeding it with alcohol and drugs. If you feed it with garbage, it will produce garbage. You know – “Garbage in, garbage out.”

3. You have God-given common sense which you were born with. Common sense is knowing what is right and what is wrong. You know what is right and good for you, and you know what is wrong and bad for you. You don’t need a university degree to know what is right and wrong. You just know it. Success is really the application of common sense.

4. You have a healthy body and physical strength. You have the same number of eyes, ears, hands and feet, blood colour, bones, nerves and veins, brain size, etc as every successful person in the world. If so many in the world can succeed against all odds, so can you.

5. You have time, which is another very important asset. Every day you have 12 hours, like everybody else in the world. You might have heard the saying, “Time is money”. This is true. If you use time wisely, money will come. And being young, time is on your side.

These are the basic ingredients of success. And you possess them all.

Notice I have not included education. Most people think that because they have not been to school or dropped out, they cannot succeed. This is a destructive myth which keeps so many people from realising their potential. Education is only a bonus, not an essential ingredient.

But if you feel that education is still necessary for you to succeed, let me tell you that you now have that as well. What you have learnt is more than sufficient for you to make it in life. In fact, I would go so far as to say that for you to succeed, 1-2-3 and A-B-C is sufficient. You have gone beyond the basics, so you are more than equipped to succeed.

Notice also that a job is not on the list either. Most people associate success with a paid job. People believe so much in jobs that when they fail to get jobs, they immediately think they are failures. This is another destructive mindset which holds people back. What I would like to tell you is that you can succeed without a paid job. I know so many people who are successful that have never held a paid job in their lives. This gives me the confidence to assure you that you can succeed without a job.

Finally, notice that I have not included money as an essential ingredient for success. You know why? It is because in PNG you don’t need money to succeed. One common saying is, “You need money to make money”. This may apply in other countries but not in PNG. Here, you can make money without money.

If you combine your land, your mind, the common sense you were born with, physical strength and time, MONEY WILL COME. Even if you don’t have land, you can still live a comfortable life by combining the other ingredients. That is one of the blessings and privileges of being born a Papua New Guinean which most young people overlook.

So there you have it:

• You are here because Almighty God decided in His wisdom that you should be born and live in such a time as this in such a country as PNG. Heaven knows you are here. And if you read Jeremiah 29:11, heaven has a plan for you.
• You are a citizen of an abundantly rich country. There is enough in this country for each one of us to become millionaires.
• You are born rich. You may think you are poor, but the truth is that you are rich.
• You are alive at the right time when so many opportunities are opening up. PNG is on the verge of the biggest economic boom since Independence.
• And you possess the 5 Basic Ingredients of Success.

Don’t let anything or anyone convince you otherwise. Don’t think yourself as a failure if you don’t make it next year. (Parents, please don’t see your child as a failure. See him or her as a person with a lot of potential.) And if you do make it to college or university but don’t get a job 2 to 4 years from now, don’t believe that you have failed.

Let me end with a story I read in a book titled Acres of Diamonds by Russell H. Corwell. It is the story of an Iraqi farmer by the name of Al Hafed. The story goes one day a Buddhist priest from the East came to spend the night in Al Hafed’s. As they were talking in the night, the wise man told the farmer about diamonds. Al Hafed was so intrigued that he sold his farm the next day and went to the world looking for diamonds. He searched far and wide until he came to Barcelona, Spain. Having spent all his money without finding any diamond, and having no place to return to back home, he committed suicide by throwing himself over the cliffs, and died in despair, hopelessness and poverty.

In the meantime, the man who bought the farm discovered acres of diamonds in the creek that ran by the farm, and went on to become the richest man of his time.

The moral of the story is this: So many people search far and wide for opportunities, jobs, wealth and riches like Al Afed, when their ‘acres of diamonds’ is right in their backyards. What you need to live a successful life could be with you or in you already. So before you start searching in places, look within yourself first.

Don’t be like Moses in the burning bush. When God asked what he had in his hand, Moses replied, “It’s only a shepherd’s rod, God.” God said, “Moses, it’s not just a rod; it’s a mighty instrument of signs and wonders in Egypt and deliverance for my people Israel!” What seemed so little and innocent in Moses’s eyes was very powerful in God’s sight. God uses what weak and foolish things and people to confound the strong and wise.

And that is the essence of my speech today: You Already Have What It Takes To Succeed! Don’t think it is in Port Moresby or Lae, so you go looking for it. It is right where you are. If you look within yourself, you will find your ‘acres of diamonds’. If you look intently at what you already have, it is enough for you to live a powerful life.

In conclusion, I join everyone here today in congratulating you for achieving this milestone in your life. We all wish you the best as you face life from hereon.

To everyone, I wish you all a Very Merry Christmas and a Prosperous 2009 and beyond.

May God bless you all.

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