YAT SEN PRIZE GIVING SPEECH, OCTOBER 27, 2005,
DELIVERED BY JUSTICE NAZHAT SHAMEEM
The Principal, Staff, Students and Parents of the Yat Sen Secondary school.
Thank you for your warm welcome and for the
kind introduction this afternoon. The trouble
with most c.v.'s is that they miss out the
most important achievement in a woman's life
and that is that she is a mother.
Because I am a mother as well as a judge, I
know that the attention span of an average
teenager is not long. So I am not going to
make a lengthy and boring speech concerning
things you know about anyway. Instead I will
talk about speech concerning things that have
been of value in my life, with the hope that
in sharing them with you, you may learn from
My father, who came from Pakistan wrote and read poetry, history and literature. From my father I learnt that we should look into our past to build a better future. His favorite poem was one by a famous Urdu poet, Mohammed Iqbal. It went like this:
Make yourself strong,
That when God writes your fate,
He asks you,
Tell me, what do you want?
The message is that we control our own lives and therefore our own
fates. Depend on no one. Do what is right. Be determined. Be focused, and choose your own goals. Even if the whole world is against you, do what you believe is right, and live by the principles. It sounds so
easy, to live by the principles. But I know it is not easy. To adhere to your principles and your values, no matter how difficult the circumstances, can be hard. You may lose your friends. Your own families may not understand you and they may turn their backs on you. You may be ridiculed, insulted, rejected. You may not know if you will still have a job the next day. But you will have the comfort of knowing that you live with integrity, with self- respect and with courage.
That is hard, especially for girls and women. We women are brought up to please everyone, to conform, to do our duty. We must be wonderful
cooks, housewives, wives, mothers, daughters, daughter-in-law, and earn a living too. We must respect our traditions but we must also compete in the modern world.
I can tell all of you young women here today, that you can be all of this and more if you are strong in yourselves. If you have decided where you are going, and how you are going to get there. And if you refuse to accept obstacles in your path because you know you can overcome those obstacles and forget your own path.
And for all of you, young women and men, you must achieve an education. Getting a good education is not just about getting a degree. It is about having an informed mind, about reading, researching and
learning the ways of others. You can choose to be a police officer,
or a dentist or a bank officer, but whatever you chose to do, strive to be the best in that field. Have integrity in the way you work and you will succeed.
But the best education and all the wealth in the world are worthless without the kindness and compassion. How we speak to others, tells everyone a lot about us. If you are polite to everyone regardless of status, if you treat all persons with dignity and consideration, your battles can be won without a fight. As a wise man said: "A person's true wealth is the good he or she does in the world.ˇ±
People often talk about a generation gap. Adults say ˇ°Good Morning.ˇ±
Teenagers say "Wassup dude." We say ˇ°have a nice day.ˇ± You say ˇ°Rock on." But these are small differences. Importantly, all you want
from life are the things that adults also aspire to; financial security, independence and safety. You want happiness, wisdom and stability.
But you must earn these things. In these years at school you have learnt about taking personal responsibility for the things you do. This is the most important lesson for the young people of Fiji to learn. We are all accountable for what we do. We reap what we sow. When we do something wrong, we must do three things. One we must acknowledge that we have done something wrong. Two, we must apologize to the injured party. And three, we must promise never to do it again. We will never learn about taking personal responsibility until we have learnt these lessons. Nor can we hope to move on from mistakes in the past if we never acknowledge the mistakes we have made.
The modern world is not easy for the young there are many temptations and few incentives. You may not have good role models around you. You may come from a family where your parents are no longer together, where there is not enough money to fulfill your dreams. You may feel that no one understands or hears what you say.
But surviving in adversity is a test of your personal strength. For every hurdle you encounter, devise a strategy to overcome it and you will succeed.
Become the masters of your own fate. I congratulate all of you on your achievements this year. I congratulate your patient and hardworking teachers for yet another successful year. And I congratulate your parents for their commitment and love for their children.
I wish you all well for Christmas and the New Year, for Eid and Diwali.