Convocation Speech by Matthew Freire ’13

Presented by student government president Matthew Freire ’13 during Convocation on September 14, 2012.

To the faculty, staff and administration; parents; distinguished guests; and especially to my fellow Williston students:

Good evening.

© Matthew Cavanaugh

It is indeed an honor to stand before you this evening as your 2012-2013 student government president. I can hardly believe that it has been four years since my first convocation! I was excited, scared and uncertain about what to expect once I got here. Despite my mixed feelings, however, I was sure of one thing: that Williston would be perfect for me.

When I first arrived, I was astounded by how tall people were, nevertheless it didn’t prevent me from establishing the wonderful friendships I have here today. I arrived at Williston as one of the shortest freshmen and now four years and about three inches taller, I continue to remain one of the shortest in my class. However, my message to you today is not about how tall or short you are, it’s about how far you can go and what story you want to tell at the end of your Williston journey.

Let’s take a minute to reflect on how privileged we are to attend this institution, to have the faculty we have, and the administration that keeps our school going. Think about how many students were would love to be in our shoes, but, for whatever reason, do not have the opportunity to be a part of our wonderful community. We are indeed quite fortunate to be here and we should be sure to take advantage of this opportunity.

For the new students I welcome you to Williston and ask you to reflect on your experiences over the past week, the friends you have made and, the activities you are currently involved in. Now ask yourself: What will I do throughout my time here? How will I grow, and how will I make a difference? The fact of the matter is that you are here today because someone in the admissions department believes that you will be successful at Williston and contribute something unique that no else can.

But what does it really mean to be successful? For some it may be getting good grades, or having a leadership role on an athletic team. Still, for others, it might mean getting a B on Mr. Gunn’s AP US History papers. For me, however, being successful means getting from point A to point B no matter what obstacles may be ahead of you. In my opinion, no one can be a success without first encountering obstacles preventing one from achieving his or her success in the first place. John Bul Dau  came and spoke to us about his experience in Sudan almost two years ago and he said “struggle and success come in the same package,” a message that still resonates with me today.  Just as John Bul Dau struggled with genocide in Sudan and cultural assimilation in America, we as students will face struggles of our own. There will be days when you study for hours to prepare for a test, yet receive a sub-par grade. There will be days when you will give it your all at practice, yet lose a game.

However, you must not give up. There will be a day where your hard work will pay off and you will receive an A on that paper. There will be a day where you will hand your championship trophy or plaque over to Mr. Hill at assembly. Embrace those moments and learn to use your struggles as a motivation to become successful. We are Williston students: we are ambitious students, and have the capacity to excel in all of our endeavors. Just, remember the following recipe for success: “dream, believe, and achieve.” To achieve one’s goals, one needs to “dream” about them and put them in perspective. One then needs to “believe” in oneself to establish the confidence and overcome the obstacles that one may encounter. Finally, one can “achieve” one’s goal by setting smaller realistic goals that will result in the completion of the ultimate goal.

As we begin this year I ask you to be ambitious in your goals. Dream big, but remember that a dream without a plan of action is a mere hallucination. If you don’t put in the effort necessary, you are not guaranteed success.

So I ask of you today: What will you do at Williston this year? Will you start a club? Will you step up to lead it? Will you spend more time rehearsing to get that solo for the Widdigers or Caterwaluers? Or Will you be that Wildcat hockey fan to run up and down the stands showing Deerfield students how much school pride Williston has? How will you do it? Will you dream about it, or will you put in the work to make it happen?

It’s not enough to just want it; you have to be about it. Don’t be influenced, but be the influence, and understand that because we are at Williston, success is much easier to achieve than if we were not here. We just have to put in the work to realize it! Your time at Williston is limited but the opportunities you have to be successful are endless.  Use the resources at your disposal and have the best year possible.

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