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Haydn Watters’ Valedictory Address

Haydn Watters' Valedictory Address

watters_indexDelivered May 15, 2015.
Hmmm… let me see. Let’s do Question 3. Quotation… He answered…  How can I possibly please the distinguished guests, President Cooper, board members, faculty members, parents, grandparents, friends and most of all, fellow graduates? End quotation. Parentheses. Valedictory address 2015. End Parentheses. Discuss. Align text right.

I don’t know why I’m constantly picking the hardest question. There’s always like twenty options to choose from on these things and I end up picking the hardest one. But then it’s too late to change it because you left writing it until the night before. Or three AM the morning of. Luckily today, the 9:30AM deadline was postponed to 2:30PM. Thanks for that Pat Dixon.

Now, just before we slide our King’s careers into the third floor-NAB window slit, let us take a moment to reflect and reminisce. And just like any good FYP essay, this, 100 words in, is where I hit the first writing roadblock.

But this time, there were no Pasta Sundays, or Garlic Bread Bars, or Sundae Sundays to egg me on. After about an hour of trying to write this speech in complete rhyme to the tune of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, I somehow ended up on a Facebook page devoted to asbestos removal memes. And no, shockingly, there were no mentions of Alex Hall.

Then I thought, ‘Hey, maybe it’d be great to start the speech off with the first note I took from the very first FYP lecture on September 7, 2011.’ But I went back in my notes and discovered that the line was, I kid you not, “Hell, a place of wisdom, rebirth???” And while this school has put us through hell and back, I decided that wouldn’t be the most fitting theme for a graduation speech. Sorry to burst your bubble, Kyle Fraser.

After a bit of contemplation, I’ve decided to reflect and reminisce through a bit of a different approach: a lesson in biology. Look, I’m no FYP Science student, but if I’ve learned one thing during my time here at King’s, it’s that people at this school love writing about things they know absolutely nothing about.

So, let me liken our time here to that of a friendly, colour-changing chameleon. Pretty weird analogy, I know, but hear me out. Before we started at King’s, there’s no question we were colourful. I mean, just look at all of your parents here. You descend from a very long line of colourful people.

It know many of us shared the same traits coming into King’s. We were the class nerds. The camp counsellors. The lifeguards. The kids that wore khakis. The Montessori and Trillium Waldorf students. The historical interpreters. The Birks in winter kids. The loser kids. The kids who would prefer to sit upstairs instead of playing video games with other kids their own age and drink red wine with their parents and their dinner guests kids. The Ultimate Frisbee players. The gluten-free kids. The kids who carried their epi-pens around in their fashionable fanny packs.

The odd ones. The quirky ones.  The original ones.

Yes, we were this chaotic assortment of colours. But before coming here, we didn’t quite know how to wear all of these colours properly. Not to get all Cyndi Lauper on you and all, but I argue it wasn’t until we drove into the quad that we started wearing our own true colours.

Now, let me back up this thesis statement: I came into King’s a small, scrawny, undernourished chameleon, somewhat colour-confused and just wanting to blend in with the crowd. Over the past four years, all the people that I’ve worked with, all the KTS plays and Wardroom and chapel concerts I’ve gone to, all the costumes I’ve had to dress up in, all the Chronicle Herald’s I’ve had to read for news quizzes (shout out to Suzy Schumkus), all the sleepless Sunday nights I spent writing TWAK, all the times I’ve tried to properly pronounce Nietzsche, all the slack lines I’ve fallen off , all the times I’ve been yelled at by Professor Hankey for being too loud during FYP announcements – have allowed me, as the chameleon, to add a very different palate of colours to my chameleon skin. I leave here today, four years later, one very changed chameleon. Sure, still small, scrawny and probably undernourished, but now with the courage to stand out rather than blend in, hence all the different colours.

But it’s not just me. I too have watched you all flourish into colourful chameleons, finding your own true colours. Battling your nerves to play at that first Wardroom open mic of the year. Playing through a concussion to take the rugby team to the championships. Wracking your brain in the John and Nancy Leefe library cubicle. Winning a fiery debate in the SCR against your professor over the third box of Banrock Station wine. Finding the courage to lead a seminar on the Renaissance in Classroom 7. Pulling an all-nighter with the rats in the TV Room. Shimmying and dancing shirtless to the musical stylings of Queen on the Alumni Hall desks.  You may be wondering, yes, these are all true stories. You see my friends, we sit here today as changed chameleons. King’s has helped us grow to become our own colony of friendly, colour-changing chameleons. Let’s call it the colony of 2015.

If you ask me, it’s the perfect position to be in today as we move out of the protection of the King’s fishbowl into the big scary, choppy ocean that is the real world. The skills we’ve learned, the subjects we’ve been taught, the life lessons we’ve stumbled upon during our past four years are incredibly comprehensive and wide-ranging. We’ll be able to use all of the different colours we’ve collected and adapt them to fit or at least problem-solve the challenges that are thrown our way. Kinda like how a chameleon is able to adapt to all the different environments they are in. Our professors have played a large role in contributing to our palate of colours too. They’ve peppered us with their knowledge, shaping us into the tasty, colourful fillets of education we are today.

Okay, you’re sitting there thinking, I thought this was supposed to be a biology lesson! Surely, there must be more science to this. Well, hold on to your graduation caps folks (I wrote that in there thinking we’d be wearing those graduation caps you see in the movies): I put all the investigative research skills Fred Vallance-Jones and the J-school have taught me to good use when writing this speech… and I conducted a Google search. I stumbled upon several strikingly truthful chameleon facts that I’d like to share with you.

The first thing I learned is that chameleons tend to stick together. And that’s very true of us Kingsians. We flock to each other. We support each other. We only sometimes socialize with people from other schools even though we live like, three feet away from them. It’s the King’s bubble effect, as I call it.  I’ve come across and heard about all sorts of freakish King’s chameleon colonies in all parts of the world. In Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods Park on a sunny day. Up at the CBC newsroom in Yellowknife. Hell, I went for a physical back home in Ontario last summer and while examining my… regions, my doctor spent the whole time telling me how much fun he had going to an all King’s wedding in Europe! It’s true, we chameleons stick together. And I hope that’s the case going forward.

My research also led me to this fun fact… Chameleons tend to mate more intensively when they are exposed to ultraviolet lights. I guess that would explain all those black lights in Middle Bay.

On a more serious note, the Smithsonian Institute, out of Washington, tells me that the more colourful a chameleon is, the stronger and more ready to defend themselves in nature they are. Hmm… just think about that and all the colours we’ve gathered up during our time here. It’s quite a hopeful message as we, the 2015 colony of chameleons, graduate.

And now for the conclusion. The part in the FYP essay where you look back at all your paragraphs and you think,“What quotation did I pick again?” Oh right, the goal was to please you, the excellency, President Cooper, board members, faculty members, parents, grandparents, friends and most of all, fellow graduates. This is where past King’s valedictorians tend to get all philosophical and bust out a quote by Hegel, but you can’t expect me to do that, I’m in j-school for god sakes. I can promise you this. If you keep on wearing the colours you earned during your time here, life won’t be dull. Because being a colourful chameleon is never dull. Whether or not we end up as philosophers or journalists or lawyers or historians of medieval ancient witchcraft or anything else that we studied here, we’ll be able to use the colours we’ve developed to do what we do differently. Oddly. Quirkily. Originally. And now, I’m about nine words over the 1,500 essay word count so I’ll leave you to discuss.

Thank you and congratulations.