Speech delivered to young lads at my Alma Mater

Reverend Brother Principal, the Faculty of Teachers, Dear Parents, All ye Lads of Maris Stella, Ladies and Gentlemen………Good Evening.

At the very outset I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to Rev. Brother Principal for inviting, my wife and I, to witness this splendid Athletic Meet of the Junior School of Maris Stella College, Negombo. And, I consider it as a great privilege and honour given to me being an alumnus of this College, and an Officer in the Sri Lanka Navy. Furthermore, I’m deeply touched by the grand welcome given to us whilst visiting my Alma Mater.

Dear Lads, I recall the days, almost 30 years back, when, at an athletic meet like this, I was no different to one of you standing out there impatiently, listening to the inspirational speech delivered by Rear Admiral Terrence Sundaram, who is a past pupil of this college, graced the occasion as Chief Guest. Ladies, Gentlemen, and Dear Lads, please allow me to steal about 15 minutes of your precious time to, highlight my school days, my early days in the Navy, the Lessons that I learned and some food for thought.

The first thing that strikes my mind reminiscing my school days is all about activities and tons of activities, apart from academics. I, as a young lad, spent most of my time in school taking part in different extracurricular activities, sports, technical projects, Social activities and Clubs, so on and so forth. Or else cleaning and tidying up the premises, or occasionally painting the desks and chairs, and colour washing the classrooms. On rainy days we also loved making paper boats and sailing them in the drains and puddles of water.

Unlike today, we didn’t worry much about our transport as we had our push bicycles as companions, neither did our parents have to worry much about our safety and security. We were given ample freedom, plus, time and space to freely move about until sunset. And above all, be responsible for all the actions that we committed.

The biggest lesson that I learned from this prestigious college is how to discipline myself. I mean, self-discipline has a greater meaning and wider connotation. It’s not just merely coming to school in time, it’s more about; disciplining your body, mind and soul. In other words, disciplining yourself physically, mentally and spiritually. I always harp on the saying that “Discipline is the Foundation for Knowledge”, however much of knowledge you have, would be of no use if you didn’t have discipline. Visualise yourself constructing a building called knowledge, on the concrete foundation of discipline. If the foundation is weak the building may collapse over time.

Lads, I may ask you, how do you discipline your physical body? In order to do that you have to engage in sports and physical activity. Healthy body leads to a healthy mind. It’s not merely playing computer games or fiddling with your electronic gadgets. Rain or Shine, You have to step outside of your house, breathe some fresh air, flex your muscles, improve your stamina and endurance, get wet in the rain, blend with the nature and appreciate the environment that surrounds you. When we were kids we didn’t have all these “Electronic gadgets” we only had one thing ……..and do you know what that is? It’s called the “Outside”.

Lads having said all this, I want to ask you another important question, how do you condition yourself spiritually? Having a healthy body and healthy mind alone is not enough. If you want to reap benefits and achieve success you have to have a spiritual well-being. You need to focus your mind. At least 20 minutes a day, preferably early in the morning. You need to have this undisturbed time for yourself. You have to discipline your mind by negating unwanted thoughts.

This will invariably help you to focus your mind and study better, memorize things better, to recall things as you have memorized, and write appropriate answers in the answer scripts for the questions that are asked. It is a form of meditation and Power of Now, which was taught to us by Rev. Bro. Joseph, when we were in Grade 8 and 9. I can still recall certain things that I memorized in those Grades. Isn’t it fascinating? Why not give it a try.

Lads, the next most important thing that I learnt from this college was to inculcate the habit of reading. We spent quite a lot of time in the College Library reading anything that caught our interest. This helped us to widen the sphere of knowledge and to understand things better. I still carry good memories of my school days, and I never had a single bad day in school. Every day we learned something new and did something productive and never wasted time. Ladies and gentlemen, Lads, I didn’t do things alone, we worked as a team. We had very good teams within the class, with parallel classes, with senior students and juniors, with Teachers and Masters. We had a good rapport with everybody, and United we stood.

During our care free days in school we didn’t quite know what we wanted to do with ourselves once we left school. At that time, we didn’t have much of a choice. Either you became a Doctor, Lawyer, Engineer or an Accountant. I chose to become an accountant because, that was, what my parents wanted me to do…. It is very important to do what we like to do. Some of us have a passion for a particular thing or a special skill which we develop over the years. Mine had something to do with ships and boats, and sailing. Not numbers and keeping a count of others balances. That’s probably why, I spent a lot of my time making paper boats.

While I was studying for accounting exams I saw a very interesting advertisement in the papers mentioning about a ‘Challenging Career’. It was from the Sri Lanka Navy and at that moment, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. At the time I joined the Navy, there was a terrible war in Sri Lanka. Your parents would’ve been young then and some of them may have shared stories about this, with you. And, parents if you haven’t, it is important that you enlighten your children on this as it is part of the modern history of Sri Lanka.

Joining the Navy was not only about fighting a war at sea. It certainly was hard work. We had a lot of studying to do and as a result we learned not only about our country but the world around us, plus technical and other subject matter. In the midst of fighting a war I also obtained a Master’s Degree in Defence Studies from the University of Kelaniya, through the Army Command and Staff College. Most importantly we were able to develop ourselves personally. The discipline, commitment, determination, courage, enthusiasm, loyalty, integrity, keen to do best, and above all be a good leader, which we developed.

Having had all these qualities, if you didn’t Manage Time, would be of no use. You need to schedule your work and your daily routine according to a time table, and manage yourself against time without waiting for your parents to come and do things for you. All of these, which are good habits, which I learned at the College was further enhanced and practised in the Navy.

Lads, you know that to be first in your class you have to work very hard. If you do well your parents will reward you with something special. I too studied hard and did my exams well, and the Navy rewarded me with an opportunity to undergo further training in England, at the prestigious, Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, as a Midshipman, which is a dream for all young officers. There is a famous saying “Join the Navy and see the world”. I was lucky enough to visit more than 20 countries, and sail in most of the oceans. During my career in the Navy for actively and courageously fighting the sea tigers, on board Fast Attack Craft and Fast Gunboats, I was awarded, Rana Wickrema Padakkama and Rana Sura Padakkama, by the President of Sri Lanka, for voluntary bravery in the face of the enemy.

Dear Lads, My wife and I, take pleasure, in congratulating all those who participated in this sports meet. As we all know, there is only one winner, with the second and third following. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose; it is how you played the game. The tiring days of practices and missing classes and avoiding homework because you were tired, showed results today.

It was all about working together as a team, and being committed and determined to do your best. These valuable lessons which have been instilled in you by our wonderful school have also brought me to, where I am today. Thank you very much for patient listening. And…..I wish you all the very best in your future endeavours. ‘May you sail in the ship of ambitions and anchor in the harbour of success’.

May God Bless you.

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