On Monday, students throughout Victoria received their ATAR scores. One of these students was Saad Al-Kassab, a Syrian refugee who only started learning English two years ago after his family was resettled in Australia.
Saad achieved an ATAR score of 96.65, which made him the dux of Catholic Regional College in Sydenham. His story is a testament to the resilience and maturity of young Australians who want to make a positive contribution to the world.
At The Scots School Albury’s speech night on 6 December, school captains Emily Graetz and Oscar Bird delivered an address on how young people can face the multitude of challenges present in the world today. The following is a transcript of their speech:
We live in a time where the notion of peace and order seemingly vanish amidst the chaos of refugee crises, the war on terror and the threat of global warming. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the task ahead of us. The past month has been riddled with emotionally charged responses to the US election, and as young people of the world we are likely to be on the frontline of attack or defence for one of the presidential candidates. But we aren’t here to preach political views and we’ll do our best to remain objective. Rather, we’d like you to consider that as Australian students of the Scots School Albury there is actually much to be learnt from this recent global event.
One: Be proactive.
Just a few days after we had completed our HSC, we were faced with the uncertain wait as the results of the US election emerged. And we were certainly not the only young citizens outside of America who were interested in the outcome. Indeed, we live in a rapidly globalising world where one nation plays a role in the running of another. Whilst it can be overwhelming to view the world from this perspective, so too can it be empowering.
As students of the Scots School Albury Oscar and I, alongside our peers, have had countless opportunities to extend our view of the world beyond the classroom. Through expeditions across some of the most remote parts of Australia and exploration of some of the most foreign cities in the world, we have truly become intrepid explorers of this Earth. You too, have been, or will be fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to seek wider horizons, thus discovering your place amidst this crazy world and the role you play within it. Despite the outcome itself, the election has reminded us that our world is constantly interacting, and that we owe it to our school and to greater society to take part in this conversation. Question what you know, open your mind to new ideas, be brave and stand up for what you believe in.
Two: Our world is flawed but we play a part in fixing it.
A presidential candidate recently stated, “the system is rigged”. Controversy over the efficiency of the US voting system is still raging and, yes, the system has its flaws. Likewise, our own educational system, the marking guidelines, and even the ATARS that Emily and I will receive in a little over a week, do not do justice to our ability, potential and worth. Throughout this final year at school we have spent much of our time complaining about the injustices forced upon us by BOSTES and VTAC and various other confusing acronyms. However, it is how we as students respond to and challenge these flaws that is important. And this is where the world-ready ideology comes in to play.
You see, Scots is a catalyst for change, allowing students to embody and express personal beliefs and values. Although there are hurdles to take in our educational system, the forward thinking environment can guide us to overcome these struggles. However, it’s up to you whether you chose to sit by idly as a passenger complaining about the “rigged system,” or to jump in the driver’s seat and actually fight for change when the world is unjust.
The US presidential campaign, election, and outcome has been characterised by its polar opposites, fierce competition and a constant splurge of controversy and insult. Debate and argument are indeed a necessity in a period of struggle and change and, at all times, we must stand for and act upon our principles. But it is when our differences become too great for us to be able to work together that a problem emerges.
There’s no denying the struggles that you as individuals will face through your six years of high school. But what Oscar and I have learnt, particularly as the challenges of the HSC have confronted us, is that success emerges from working as a team. The 1996 nonfiction book, Into the Wild, explores Chris McCandless’ journey to self- discovery and inner peace amidst his own stressful world. McCandless concludes (spoiler alert) that, ‘happiness is only real when shared.’ Maybe it is different for everyone and maybe your true happiness resides in quiet solitude. But maybe, in times of hardship and in times of joy, what we really need is to stand together, not to stand alone, and not to work against one another. The US election has involved so much hatred and conflict, but as you continue with your educational journeys here at Scots, remember that the people around you are your teammates, not your opposition.
At the start of this speech, we asked you how we could be world-ready students in a world that gives us so much to deal with. 2017 will give us new challenges where we will all need to be proactive, attempt to fix the flaws in society and, through it all, work together. For it is then that we will be able to guide our world to a brighter future.