Good morning students, teachers, parents, friends, Carmel VIPs, guests and, of course, our Year 12 valedictorians.

A valedictory is a farewell address. It denotes the end of something – in this case, the end of your time at Carmel School. But it also denotes a beginning - it’s an end and a beginning. It’s the beginning of the next episode of your lives – lives which I am confident will be lived according to our Carmel values. In you, I see young people who are curious. Who have demonstrated integrity and excellence. Who are connected to their family, their community and their school. Most of all, I see in front of me, Carmel graduates who demonstrate courage.

You have already encountered many things that those of us who now qualify as ‘old’ did not meet in our childhoods. We didn’t live through a pandemic. We didn’t live with a wretched device that bombarded us with too much information, too frequently. And right now, you are experiencing war in Israel. We have seen and read and felt events and emotions in the last two weeks that our grandparents talked about - events and emotions which we never believed we would encounter. We have contemplated things that we should not have had to contemplate.

The awfulness of the ongoing conflict in Israel weighs heavily on all our hearts and minds. As a school community, we are affected deeply, in many, many ways. But this has not stopped us learning and it has not stopped us “living our lives and doing Jewish things”, as Mr Lawrence so eloquently put it.

Our school is a sanctuary for learning – a sanctuary for education. It is a place where you have honed your academic skills and also cultivated your moral compass. I trust you take with you a deep appreciation for your Jewish heritage, which emphasises compassion, justice and a commitment to making the world a better place.

Goodness knows we will need that commitment from you, a commitment to making the world a better place. You now go out into that world. You know right from wrong. You know how to learn and, most importantly, you know how to think. Your responsibility is to take the knowledge, skills and learnings and use them wisely. Your responsibility is to remember the lessons you have learnt at school, to remember the values we hold dear and to be a generation of people that strives for a brighter future.

True wisdom isn’t the ability to pass exams or remember information, useful though that can be – true wisdom is the ability to navigate human emotions, suffering and conflict. True wisdom is knowing how you can use your individual talents to make a difference.

The conflicts in the world must not discourage you – they must instead be a reminder of the work that still needs to be done. You are the future leaders of our world and I know that you will strive to be the instigators of dialogue and peace. Empathy and understanding will triumph over violence and misused power. You are amongst the people who can make this happen.

So it's time for you to leave Carmel. What should you do? Study! Learn! Travel! Learn! Work! Learn some more. Do what you love and spend time with people who give you joy. Read a lot. Think. Learn some more. You get the message.

מזל טוב, Class of 2023. תודה רבה. Thank you for what you have given to the School. Now go out into the world, fight with courage and integrity.  חזק ואמץ – [Chazak ve ematz] - be strong, be courageous! Stick to your principles and we are confident you will make a difference. Please stay in touch and come back to tell us stories of the difference you have made.

Julie Harris

October 2023