i'm a hero ...
oK ... In 1970, I was 13 and in a secret vote in grade 8, I was chosen to speak on behalf of my graduating class at Centennial Central School, in Comber Ontario. It came out of nowhere, and I was READY! Bring it ON!
v a l e d i c t o r y
What's odd thinking back, was that I was no where near the having the highest marks ... narrowing it down to 3 choices - the smartest boy, the smartest girl and me (for some reason). I wasn't even that popular - an outcast perhaps. Someone who could speak up for those less fortunate. A friend of mine said that it was a unanimous vote for me (having broken the rules and peeked) - the teacher asking the students to bow their heads down on our desks and raise our hands for the one they wanted to speak for them at our graduating ceremony - calling out the contestants names and counting the votes ... and the winner is ...
v a l e d i c t o r y
I went home that night, rather stunned and told my dad that I had been chosen to give the class speech in 2 weeks, to an auditorium full of parents, teachers and our graduating class in a celebration of our terms end, telling my dad that I was nervous and might need his help/assistance with the address. Dad wrote my speech for me. It was like there were no options in the matter.
You see; I lived in an extremely repressed world back then. I was in an empty environment under the virulent control of my Dad who basically told me that he would be writing his sermon (on my behalf). This is it here (below) ...
I remember my Dad toiling over it - chipping carbon copies into an ancient typewriter with multiple versions of the tenuous text - before arriving at his masterpiece while I listened to Deep Purple on my cassette player in my bedroom - wondering what it would look/read like.
and so the eventful evening arrived.
I was summoned early in the proceedings. Mrs. McConnell in exclamation ... "And now a word from our graduating class Valedictorian - Jimmy Lamarche". Joyous jubilation in much anticipation. Waiting in the side-lines and feeling what adult perspiration was like for the first time. Dressed in a suit and tie, my hair combed to perfection hard-gelled with sticky vaseline, walking up the platform stairs in shoes that hurt my feet because they were way too small, shivering and shaking ... pulling out my scripted script and Dad's words (not mine) ...
(here goes nothing) ...
PARENTS, MR. ATTRIDGE, MRS. McCONNELL, FELLOW STUDENTS:
For generations, elementary education has often been referred to as THE THREE R's … Readin' … Ritin' … AND Rithmetic.
As the school terms have passed behind me I have become convinced that this reference might very well be outdated; and possibly now we should consider changing this saying to THE FOUR R's !!! Through guidance at home, and during my fascinating trip from Kindergarten through grade eight, I have become increasingly aware that for all students … and for all civilized people, the FOURTH "R" stands for RULES !!
From the minute we wake up in the morning, until we are sound asleep at night … at home, and at school, our existence is determined by an impressive array of RULES; many of which sometimes seem unimportant … others may be even MORE important than the original three "R's". Most privileges in this world, it sees to me, are only available to the people who are willing to pay for them through RESPONSIBILITY. In other words, we are being asked to PLAY THE GAME; and all games have RULES.
Let us not lose sight of the obvious privileges which have surrounded us, especially here at this modern, well-equipped, and well-staffed school. The years we have been privileged to spend here have given us the stepping stone to what CAN be a truly wonderful future; and I feel that we should never forget that our excellent education to this point in our lives would never have been possible … WITHOUT RULES!!
Every responsible person connected with our school … This one, and the schools in our future, has a set of RULES or guide-lines which must be followed. The members of the School Board; our principal; our teachers; our students, and our parents must accept these rules and abide by them … otherwise, the entire undertaking would have long since fallen apart in confusion and failure.
… RULES WILL ALWAYS be with us !!!
Many times we may believe that some rules are too strict … or unnecessary altogether. However, I have learned that when this thought crosses our minds, we should PUT ON THE BRAKES for an instant … stop … and remind ourselves that rules were not made to be broken, as some would have us believe. Let's be honest with ourselves, and those around us. Let's face up to the responsibility of that FOURTH "R" as we move from this stepping stone up to the next … and the next is higher education. As long as we PLAY THE GAME, I'm sure that our chances of success, happiness, and even survival are very high indeed!!!
I am honoured to have this opportunity to say a few words on behalf of the graduating Grade Eight students of Centennial Central School. I know that I speak for all of them when I say to you, that we are grateful for the faith which has been placed in us; allowing us to continue our search for knowledge past Grade Eight. This search is becoming so very important in these rapidly changing times.
We thank the members of the school board; Mr. Attridge; every teacher and our parents for abiding by their responsibilities; making and living by the rules !!! This has made our progress possible. We sincerely thank you all for your wisdom and your guidance and for your patience with us.
You have played the game very well! You have passed the ball to us. We shall honestly try to carry it safely into the end zone.
June 25, 1970
Centennial Central School, Comber Ontario
and so ...
What I vividly remember, is finishing my speech to a resounding silence - standing there in a botched, bewildered trance - facing the vacant crowd - clearly not knowing what to think of - what was THAT? After a few long tortuous seconds there was a single clap, followed by a well choreographed second, third - then the room. I was embarrassed - humiliated.
v a l e d i c t o r y
Honestly, in that moment ... I was shitting my pants because Dad's speech was garbage and it was almost like everyone knew that I didn't write this and that it was written for me - likely by my father (who else)? Brutal. I crawled off the stage like a wounded weasel unknowing of my real future despite the rhetoric and none of my class-mates talked to me for the rest of the festivities. I wondered why back then sitting alone in the back of the gym - ribbons and balloons (my dad gone). wondering ... what to do.
I wrote this piece of music (gone forever) 23 years later in a dream on Westminster Ave in Parkdale Toronto ... waking suddenly and going to my studio at 4am and quietly recording it in about an hour. It reminds me of that eerie evening in Comber Ontario decades earlier.
Better late than never. I'm finding that the most redeeming works of art are all too often conceived in a few short moments - like this was. Oh and one thing I've learned since ...