Saturday, July 03, 2010

From earlier today, the speech


Text of a Speech delivered by Oluwatosin H. Otitoju (FRM)
as Guest Speaker at the Annual Speech and Prize-Giving Ceremony of Queen’s College Lagos on 3rd July, 2010

Pass on the torch
Still brightly gleaming
Pass on the hopes
The earnest dreaming
To those who follow close at hand.
My warmest greetings to all: our distinguished guests (naming them), as well as our distinguished hosts – the students and staff of Queen’s College Lagos.
Since 1927, the Queen’s College torch has been passed on.
Eighty-three years - that is four generations. That is, of the earliest classes of QC girls, some may have had grandchildren whose granddaughters have become QC girls. So we
Pass on the thoughts,
The skills, the learning
Pass on the secrets
In most yearning
That they may build where we have planned.
The words of a poem. The lyrics of a song. When Miss Dorothy Peel wrote these words, how did she know that the most beautiful ones are not yet born? That where our set planned would be where your set built the house? That our biggest accomplishments would be but a starting point for your set?

Your dreams will be bigger. Isn’t there a lot to excite you as you look around and see a world filled with delicious problems that your ancestors have not solved?

The effort of your forebears over the last fifty years has yielded a democratic state. Still, in this government for the people, the percentage of people served and the quality of this service both need to be increased by orders of magnitude.

In Lagos, we have seen the recent miracle of road-improvement projects, refuse collection, urban beautification. Still I am sure that we can envision a still more beautiful environment with functional public architecture, excellent mass transit, with flowers everywhere.

Yes, your dreams must be bigger than ours. In particular, your dreams must be bigger than money. I like the phrase “poverty of ambition.” As Obama put it, “There’s nothing wrong with making money, but focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself...”
Pass on the songs
Pass on the laughter
Pass on the joy
That others after
May tread more lightly on their way
I hope that you always remember these words. Remember to sing, to laugh. Remember to play (do you need to be reminded to play?) Remember to dance a little. Keep the tradition of Queen’s College ladies as joyful and fit, as we
Pass on the faith
That naught can alter
Pass on the strength
Lest they should falter
In hours of stress some future day.
We are pilgrims now. We’re on a journey now. We tread lightly, joyfully on our way. We who have studied the Bible and reflected on the Qur’an. We preserve our faith.

For you, my young sisters, this is not even enough. Draw strength also from the Bhagavad Gita. Read also from The Origin of Species. Take a lesson or two from ‘Things Fall Apart.” Do you hear the wisdom in DaGrin’s flow? How do you feel about God and religion? Comment on non-local interactions in quantum science. Who can quantify the vastness of the known cosmos?

In short, get what the giant of African-American history W.E.B. DuBois referred to as “intelligence, broad sympathy, knowledge of the world that was and is, and of the relation of men to it.” This is the sound education for which YOU must strive.
Pass on the firm determination
To guide a later generation
By gentle influence in the home
It may be true that a woman has a domestic role. In days past, fitness for the domestic role was the entire purpose of a woman’s education. The home. Home economics, essentially.

But some things have changed. In those days, few people went to school. Now, many children will be raised primarily in schools. Now, many fathers, men, will participate in raising their own children. These days, you as a woman need not divide your day between scrubbing wooden utensils – along the grain! – and cutting patterns for your next party dress. There is a machine for the wooden spoon, and we all know where to shop for the dress.

With home tasks outsourced, shared, and mechanized to such a large extent, you, we, women, are called outside the home as well as in. There is a public sphere, is my point, and how could you not want to stamp your mark on it? Let everybody know: I was ‘ere in class and style.

As a young woman, you are invited to be a politician - of the excellent kind.
Or to be an actor and make us dream.
Be a scientist – they are not just people you read about in books, they are flesh and blood like me.
Be a teacher, and guide that later generation.
Be a sculptor; be something we haven’t heard of before, or do something traditional - but do it with style.
Be a man. I’m not saying don’t be a woo-man. I am saying you can be omo-seggsy if you wish, or even if you’re big-bosomed and nurturing, or you’re shy and sensitive, or you’re this short and fragile and you love pink, pink everything, when it comes to greatness, feel free to be a man.

If ever good advice was given, it was Rudyard Kipling’s poem titled “If”:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you.
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But give allowance for their doubting too…

Some of you must know the rest. The poem ends:
…Yours is the earth and everything in it,
And – which is more - you’ll be a man, my son.

Be a great woman!
While I was a student here at Queen’s, our PQC Marinho instilled the following words, ascribed to the 19th century writer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they while their companions slept were toiling upwards in the night.

Pass on the health, the youthful vigour,
Pass on the love that can transfigure
The darkest hours that yet may come.
We’re on a journey now. We’re on a journey now. The little we have we have passed on to you.
The little strength they have, your parents have passed on too, in the hope – no, in the certain confidence – that you are greater than they are. Although I am a little older than you, I recently lived with my parents. Let me tell you what I found: Parents will worry.

A story: once I was at lunch with two North American executives, in Detroit, Michigan. We were eating in the company cafeteria when one man complained about his teenage son, bemoaning that the young man was not motivated. The other man replied, “Bill, you know, there are many ways to skin a cat. Maybe your boy is just doing things a different way, that’s all.” To this he said, “Daniel, you’re talking about skinning a cat. I just hope my son knows there’s a cat to be skinned.” They laughed. Lunch continued.

Across cultures, parents really can’t stop thinking and talking about you. They care about you. They will worry.

Some girls here will like to beg their parents (yes?) for less worrying and more listening. Parents, if you will listen to us, you may discover that we care even more about the future than you. We know that there is a cat to be skinned. We’re boiling the water, we have filed the knife, …
Before this gets too macabre, I’ll continue…Poor cat!

The love that they have, your teachers have passed on to you. It takes a village to raise a child. It takes bursars and matrons, Principals, language teachers and business teachers, artists and scientists. Here at Queen’s College, the teachers – the Principal and all the staff – give you their all everyday, so that you may be prepared, not only when things are easy, but for the tough hours that yet may come. Cherish their love, and I say to our parents and teachers: Thank you.

To our dear students, I say, take advantage of Queen’s College. Make effort. Some of you are winning prizes today because of the effort you have made. Some of you are winning so many prizes today, that we’ll just have to wonder – how? How do you do it? (Answer : The heights by great men reached and kept… )

Some of us are not there yet. But we’re on a journey. And I quote this student favourite, attributed to Benjamin Cardozo: “In the end, the great truth will have been learned, that the quest is greater than that which is sought, the effort finer than the prize, or rather, that the effort is the prize, the victory cheap and hollow were it not for the rigour of the game.

Bill Clinton liked that quote in his student days and I kept it as my laptop screensaver for many years. The effort IS the prize.
The truth that I know, I have passed on to you.

With a great sense of history and a great sense of hope, I ask you finally to sing with me, the final stanza of our school song:
Pass on the torch, the cry inspiring
Unites us here in hopes untiring
In bonds no future years can sever
We forward press not backwards turning
That this our torch more brightly burning
May yet pass on and on forever.


SilvaDolla said...

I am so glad that you went back to talk to the current students at the speech and prize giving day! Your speech is brilliant, but then again, i didnt expect anything less :)

Erik Donald France said...

Whoah, are you kidding? Fantastic, truly.

Myne Whitman said...

Great speech indeed. I like this blog, your round up of friends and events in June, impressive.

t said...

Thanks, ladies and gentleman. I'm feeling loved now.

It was a big deal for us (me, parents) and for the school. They thought I could somehow reach the Girls as their Speaker, that was some responsibility!

Time to delete the Chinese? comments, fun stuff. I wonder what they say.

Gidan Nodza said...

Still wish I went to QC.
Well said girl... well done, I am sure you left more that a few young Ladies and teachers and matrons and parents teary eyed, nodding in agreement and proud that you are an alumni. So, here's to more inspiring speeches *whistling through teeth and clapping*

DonCasiragi said...

Nice one Tosin..a lot of us need to do more of this type of thing. Going and giving back is incredible..more ups!

Adebola said...

Keep shinning!

laspapi said...

This was a very inspiring (and inspired) speech.

Anonymous said...

Totally awesome and inspiring..took me all the way back..our school song (wow..what great meaning embedded within)...we thank you gurl...
Toyin Biyi nee Akisanmi

Anonymous said...


Absolutely fantastic and inspiring!!
What other way to Pass on the Torch!!

Busola Haastrup (nee Adegbola)

Anonymous said...


That was an inspiring speech. Really proud I went to QC. What a way of life it was and still is... Funmie Aluko nee Opere

Tola Awofolu said...

girrrrrrrl you've got a serious God-given GIFT...not that I'm surprised, but that was a brilliant speech!

t said...

omg THANKS!!!
I can't believe who's on here...we're so ripe for a reunion.