Guest speaker at the Emmanuel College 2018 Convocation Service and Dinner was alumnus and 2014 Students’ Club President Mr Jack Larkin (EMC 2012-14). Jack grew up the son of sugar cane farmers in Proserpine, North Queensland. He moved to Brisbane in 2012 to pursue tertiary studies in law at UQ. He lived at Emmanuel College for three years and was elected Students’ Club President in his final year. After leaving College, Jack studied overseas in Turkey and rode his bicycle from Istanbul to the Syrian border before returning home to Australia. Graduating from law in 2016, he went chasing cattle in Western Queensland where he worked as a stockman for a pastoral company. He has recently returned to South-East Queensland to commence an Associateship under His Honour Judge Alexander Horneman-Wren SC in the District Court of Queensland .
Emmanuel College 2018 Convocation Address by Mr Jack Larkin, Sunday 11 February 2018: What do you believe?
I’m humbled to have been invited to join you this evening as we mark the opening of the College year. It is incredibly inspiring to be in a room with talented and intelligent young people, so thank you.
But, it’s because you are such a talented and intelligent mob of humans that you’re actually quite a challenging audience to address. I can’t exactly stand up here and talk nonsense; you deserve better than that. So in deciding what I wanted to speak to you about this evening, I must credit a little boy’s tantrum for providing the spark.
Last week, I went out for dinner with some old College friends. At the table beside us sat a young family. I overheard the littlest boy exclaim “I hate linguine pasta” much to the displeasure of his parents who had just ordered him a linguine marinara. Now, the kid couldn’t have been a day over five, so I was at first impressed that he could differentiate between pasta types. But upon greater reflection, that little boy was modelling an alarming trend in our society where we subscribe to a view of the world in opposition to things. We hear it every day: “I hate rap music”, “I hate traffic”, “I HATE DONALD TRUMP!”. My point is that it’s easy to define yourself in opposition to things; the harder thing to do is define yourself by what you believe.
I believe in mountains. I believe adventure and spontaneity nurtures the soul. I believe poets are the greatest philosophers of our world. I believe in sport and moving your body every day. I believe in living a life that you don’t feel the need to escape from. I believe in knowledge and truth. I believe in democracy and equal opportunity. I believe in hard work, our generation and climate change. I believe in gut feelings. I believe in family and friendship. I even believe in dried fruit for its nutritional value and the joy you get eating it on a warm spring afternoon.
You, my friends, will undoubtedly believe in other things and we ought to celebrate that. What’s important is that you take an affirmative stand to the way you define yourself in this world. To my mind, people of conviction and belief are much more attractive.
For those of you who are still formulating your own belief system, can I offer you a belief to help you along your way? Can I suggest that you believe in your place here at Emmanuel College? Believe in the collegiate experience to inform the decisions you will later make in your personal and professional lives.
I am the product of the collegiate experience. I grew up in a small town and was one of only a few kids from my high school to go away to university. I remember being in awe of the fact that, upon moving to Brisbane, I could go and watch the Brisbane Broncos play live. To say that College opened my horizons is an understatement.
At Emmanuel, I found an outstanding calibre of people who influenced my life. My life since College hasn’t followed a straight and narrow trajectory. That’s because my College peers encouraged me to pursue a life of my own making. They inspired me to travel the world, to challenge conventional wisdom and ask hard questions. They inspired me to go after what I love, irrespective of how much money it might bring or how it may be perceived by others. College was a safe, inclusive environment in which I could discover a truer sense of self. I am forever indebted to my College peers for their indelible mark on my life.
I have every confidence that this will happen for you too. What never ceases to amaze me is the ease with which the collegiate experience moulds a group of individuals into a fully-fledged community. Right now, you are a ravel of disparate backgrounds. Some of you come from the country, others of you from the coast. There are those of you who come from overseas. No two upbringings within your cohort will have been the same. Yet, here you are, embarking upon what I know to be an incredibly exciting chapter of life. You’re in it together now and you are each responsible for the mark you have on each other’s lives. I venture to say that Emmanuel College will welcome your patchwork of diversity and in return, it will foster lifelong friendships.
I remember occasions at College when old alumni would return 30, 40 or 50 years down the track. Many of them had featured in each other’s lives over the years, but, for those who hadn’t seen each other for decades, they picked up right where they left off. They had a spark in their eye when they spoke about their dear old col’. I believe that if the universe grants you and me a long innings in life, we, too, will have a spark in our eye where memory of college days are concerned.
You know I’ve always loved this dining hall. I couldn’t tell you how many hours I have spent between these four walls, beneath those mammoth ceiling fans, watched over by the careful eye of former principals. In fact, some of my best memories from College took place right here. The genius of a college dining hall is that it is the forum where ideas and perspectives, where beliefs, are put to the test. Everyday, you should strive to sit down to your meal with a different group of students. I encourage you to take each other’s opinions and prejudices out on that veranda and whack them around with a cricket bat. You’ll note that I did not say to whack each other around with a cricket bat, just the ideas and vices. You must do this for each other and, in doing so, you build understanding and tolerance — two things our world is in short supply of. Revel in the opportunity to learn from each other. Do not close yourself off to other ways of thinking.
So, if College is going to inform your decisions later in life, and remembering that I’ve already told you to believe that it will indeed, you need to experience as much as you can right now. So, I’m telling you to fall in love and fall out of love, to apply yourself to your studies, to stay out late, to wake up early, to admit you are wrong at times, to miss your family, but to find comfort in your new environment. If you are a rugby bloke, sign up to Dancefest. If playing rugby isn’t your forte, ensure that you never miss an opportunity to support from the side-lines. Suck the marrow out of your college days and fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds worth of distance well run. Engage wholeheartedly with college life and you will emerge a well-rounded citizen of the world with a grounded sense of who you are.
I implore you to define yourself by what you believe, not what you oppose. I’m here to tell you that you can believe in the collegiate experience you have ahead of you. It’s a tried and tested method. The story of Emmanuel College is still being written. You have before you a tremendous opportunity to contribute your own verse. Have a sensational O Week.