Find below the speech read by Mr Yaw Agyarko, the Guest Speaker for the 10th Annual Graduation Ceremony under the theme “Seeking Excellence, No Excuses”.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I am so excited to be chosen to be the Guest Speaker for the TIS graduating class of 2016! I can’t tell on which side of my bed I must have been sleeping when the decision to ask me to speak was conceived, but whichever side it was, I pray I sleep there more often to continue to get such good decisions made about me! Thank you very much for having me.
TIS Co-Founder, School Advisor, Chairman and Members of the Board of TIS, Principal and Management, Teachers and Allied staff, Graduating and Continuing Students, Parents, Guardians and invited guests, it gives me great pleasure to be invited to be your Guest Speaker at this great occasion, marking the 10th graduation since the inception of this great school!
First of all, on behalf of all the parents and guardians of the graduating class, and on my own behalf as father of Raphaela Agyarko, the outgoing Head Girl, let me take this opportunity to deeply thank all the staff of TIS (both teaching and non-teaching) for the immense effort you have expended in raising, training and guiding this set of graduates seated here today, most of whom were just feeble boys and girls when they first set foot here, to be fearless, confident, knowledgeable young men and women ready to face the world as trendsetting innovators!
Today, I am supposed to give a speech to you the graduating class on ‘Seeking Excellence, the fact that you in particular have no excuses!…and I hope by the time I am done talking, you will be inspired to go and take the world on, and be the best you can be in whatever you choose to do wherever you find ourself on planet earth! Just to ensure that we are on the same page I want to define the word ‘excellence’ so that we have a common definition to work with…..This is necessary because excellence means different things to different people…Recently we all heard of someone’s definition of what our heads are supposed to be used for….to carry load!!!! So I don’t want us to have any ambiguity about what is at stake here!…If you have ever engaged the services of the typical Ghanaian mason or any artisan to do a job for you before now, you will appreciate what I am talking about.
The Oxford dictionary defines ‘Excellence’ as the quality of being outstanding or extremely good. Another definition says ‘a state or quality of excelling or being exceptionally good; of extreme merit or superiority’. Excellence is a quality that most people appreciate, because it’s so hard to find!
Graduating class of 2016, as you leave the confines of Tema International School, you should not allow someone’s mediocrity to define your perspective of what excellence is. Strive to be the best at what you choose to do and have a deep desire to win, seeing obstacles only as opportunities. You don’t have an excuse to fail!’
As I researched and prepared for this occasion, I remembered the decision process some 6 years ago, that resulted in my wife and I resolving to join the TIS community in bringing the first of our 3 daughters here. As the years have gone by, every cedi or dollar spent, has justified the decision we made, to the extent that we have become advocates of your esteemed school.
It was in our quest to seek excellence for our daughters that we decided to walk on this road. What had precipitated this was a decision by government, then, to change the number of years of secondary school education in Ghana, which had resulted in a very brilliant girl I knew missing out on her first choice school, and having to settle for whatever became available then. Apart from her devastation at not fulfilling her dream, I remember the mental trauma her father went through as a close friend of his. After a lot of reflection, and discussion with my wife, we made up our minds that at whatever the cost, it would be worth the sacrifice to bring our kids to TIS. Thanks to the management and staff of TIS for not disappointing my trust!
In my reflections, I remembered the decision my mother, sitting among the audience today, took back in 1976, to pick me up from my grandmother in a small town called Bechem in the Brong-Ahafo region to continue my education in Kumasi. As a single parent and a trained teacher herself, I remember then the sacrifices she made to ensure I didn’t just attend school, but attended one of the best schools in the city then. I remember the choices and trade-offs she made to ensure I had the best of vacation tuition and the full complement of books I needed during high school and her insistence on me sitting down to learn to ensure I passed my exams with flying colours! I remember how she delayed gratification on several occasions just to make sure I turned out the way she wanted me to turn out….in a better socio-economic bracket than she found herself! Her desire for me to be better positioned in life, her desire for me to succeed, the urge for me to reach my full potential, are the keys that unlocked my door to personal excellence! As I remembered how she sacrificed to punch above her weight in making sure I got a good education, I told myself I couldn’t do any less for my daughters! And today, here they are…..all 3 of them here as part of the TIS community. Thanks Mama Vero for your dedication to see me excel, which has brought me here today.
You see, I didn’t stop where my Mom left off, thus the import of my speech to you today! Your Parents, Teachers and Guardians have all contributed substantially to put you in the position you find yourselves today! The proud graduating class of 2016!! The Innovators!! You have not arrived yet, in case any one of you is thinking this the end of the road for you!
I had been left with a desire to win and to make humanity within my scope better than I found it! Consequently, by the grace of God, my will to win, my desire to succeed, my determination and commitment to the excellence that had been inculcated in me, and the unrelenting pursuit of my goals have helped me on my way to attaining the success I seek for myself and in people within my sphere of influence.
Being excellent at what you do will not happen by an accident, but by a continuous conscientious process of improvement, and a can-do attitude! Charles Kendall Adams, a renowned American historian who once served as the President of Cornell University and University of Wisconsin has said, and I quote: ‘no student ever attains very eminent success by simply doing what is required of him: it is the amount and excellence of what is over and above the required that determines the greatness of ultimate distinction.’ Unquote.
If you cast your mind into the society, you see people like Steve Jobs of Apple, Elon Musk of Tesla and our very own late co-founder of TIS, Mr. Adjavon, having excelled at what they did. You being here and your parents being prepared to pay top dollar for his legacy of excellence is proof. Others, to name a few, like Dr Patrick Awuah of Ashesi University, Rev Dr Mensah Otabil of International Central Gospel Church, and my own Pastor Bishop Dag Heward-Mills, founder of Lighthouse Chapel International are examples of people who have pursued their dreams passionately and clearly excelled!…and there are a lot of people in this audience excelling in various fields; as entrepreneurs, homemakers, professionals, and the like.
Therefore as you pass through the gates of TIS as IB graduates, make it a habit to excel at whatever you do wherever you find yourself doing it. Be spoken of as being extremely good at what you do. Be spoken of as being outstanding and exceptionally good!…and be spoken of as producing work of superior quality! Your hopes and dreams will become reality when you possess a vision characterized by a willingness and desire to seek excellence and work hard at it!
As you step into the world outside there to continue your education and then on to the wider world, I want you to remember these 8 personal excellence keys to seek after, which I believe will make a difference in your lives and those around you should you decide to work hard at imbibing them:
1. Integrity – Match your behavior with your values; Be of an excellent character!
Demonstrate positive personal values in all you do and say. Be sincere and real. Don’t be of a dual
character! Think about what your behavior says about you. Does it clearly show others what you
value? Would you show up as honest and committed, or dishonest and indifferent? Would you be
spending your time with the people and activities you value or will your focus be elsewhere. When
you live in integrity and are sincere and true to yourselves, people will trust and respect you.
2. Learn from your mistakes – Failure leads to success!
View failure as feedback that provides you with the information you need to learn, grow, and
succeed. Don’t be reluctant to try different things because you are afraid of failing. When you
step out of your comfort zone, when you are willing to try something new, that is when you will
take a step towards success. The only real failure will be not learning from your mistakes! When
you think you have failed at something, look carefully at what went wrong, change what you did the
first time, and try again by applying what you learned during the process.
3. Speak with a good purpose – Speak honestly and kindly
Think before you speak! Make sure your intention is positive and your words are sincere. This is
because words are powerful! They have the power to uplift and enlighten or put down and depress!
What you say to others and yourself can have a huge impact….and the effect can sometimes last for a
lifetime! Speaking with a good purpose is always about considering the intention of your words.
There will be times when you will need to share critical thoughts. At these times, if your purpose
and how you phrase your words is considered first, sharing honest and direct feedback can be very
positive and powerful, and build trust. Speaking with good purpose is the cornerstone of healthy
relationships. This helps to foster a positive emotional environment where people around you will
be happier, more productive and more likely to succeed. If you are going to reach your highest
potential, you need to surround yourself with eagles – with people who push you forward, people who
make you better, and people who help you soar. Speaking with good purpose ensures you give, and
receive what builds, rather than tear down.
4. Focus – Make the most of every moment
Life is full of distractions and opportunities to do something else, something other than the
planned. Don’t get caught up thinking about things you wanted to do, could have done, should have
done, and want to do ‘sometime’. When your thoughts get occupied with something other than what
you’re doing, you will miss out on what’s going on around you in the moment! While you’re waiting
for the next moment to arrive the present will slip away!
5. Commitment – Make your dreams happen
Take positive action to make your dreams happen. Follow your vision without wavering. Commitment is
the breathtaking moment of making a compelling decision, jumping in, and going forward with all the
faith you can muster. Once a commitment is made, indecision is eliminated. There’s no more ‘should
I’ or ‘shouldn’t I’, ‘will I’ or ‘won’t I’. A commitment is not made lightly. It’s about taking a
decision so strong that there’s no going back, like when you decide to jump out of a plane!
6. Ownership – Take responsibility for your actions
Be responsible for your thoughts, feelings, words, and actions. Own the choices you make and the
results that follow. When you take responsibility for your choices, others will know that they
can count on you and you will earn their respect. When you take ownership of everything you do and
say, and stop blaming things outside yourself for situations that occur in your lives, you will
have great control of your life. You may not be able to control everything that happens in your
life but you can control your responses to what happen. Ownership is a whole life concept – your
education, your decisions, your relationships, your career, your fitness, your fun, and your faith
– all areas of your life! When you take ownership you will find a great sense of pride, confidence
7. Flexibility – Be willing to do things differently
Recognize what’s not working and be willing to change what you’re doing to achieve your goal! As
you go out there, you will be faced with situations that will be different from what you originally
planned! One way to deal with such situations is to be rigid and continue in the same way over and
over. Another will be to handle them with flexibility. Being flexible is responding to changing or
new situations in ways that move you forward. This may include recognizing all kinds of habits or
patterns or activities in your life that aren’t working and changing them, and even changing them
again until you find one that works!
8. Balance – Live your best life
Be mindful of yourself and others while focusing on what’s meaningful and important in your life.
Inner happiness and fulfilment comes when your mind, body, and emotions are nurtured by the choices
you’ve made. Balance will not be about rigidly devoting equal time to everything that matters to
you. It will be about considering everything that’s meaningful and important to you and making
choices about how you will spend the resources available to you, in terms of time, money, energy,
etc. When you find the right balance, you will be happy, healthy, productive and fulfilled.
Not to forget, I like the balance you displayed last week! You displayed a huge sense of friendship
and togetherness after it was all over with your exams! You had a lot of fun, thanks to Mrs
Adjavon, but most strikingly you took time off to say thank you to the one who made it all
possible, GOD, the chief architect of excellence! Be reminded to seek Him first as you leave TIS,
and all the things you seek shall be added to your life.
In conclusion, our dear graduating students, so much has been invested in you to go out there and
be just another high school graduate! So much sacrifice has been made by your parents, teachers and
yourselves to get you this far! You can’t be just another high school graduate. No, you can’t
settle for that! You are going to go out there and show the world what you’ve got! Wherever you
find yourself in the pursuit of your dreams, whether in Ghana or abroad, let the
excellence you exhibit tell those watching that you are a product of Tema International School,
and let them see by your actions that your foundation is built on the excellence that was
inculcated in you while you were here.
I look forward to seeing you at the top!
You have no excuse to fail! God help you all!