■ During the civil ceremony for Anzac Day in Stratford, the head boy and head girl of Stratford High School were invited to give a speech.
The Stratford Press is delighted to publish the speech by head boy Sam Witeri in this edition, with the speech by head girl Ashleigh Stanners to be printed next week.
My name is Sam Witeri. I am very proud to be the Head Boy of Stratford High School this year.
Today, I want to talk about the concept of bravery.
In 1914 and in many years to follow our Anzacs have left the shores of New Zealand and Australia, some destined to return, others leaving behind only a memory lodged in the minds of family members, friends and local communities.
They had a duty to uphold, for their families, for the country, for us the people of New Zealand.
These men had bravery coursing through their veins. But to them what did bravery really mean?
What does bravery mean to us today?
Brave. Bravery. To be brave. This word is so powerful it drives men and women, old and young to become something more than themselves. It is that drive to conquer fear itself.
Like Nelson Mandela once said and I quote, 'I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but rather the triumph over it. And the brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."
It is sometimes hard for us today to feel and understand that concept of bravery.
Over 100 years later we stand here, most of us disconnected from that concept of bravery. Some of you may know it, and some not quite.
I, for one, as your average teenager don't know what kind of bravery a soldier had. I can't understand the feelings one must go through to go to war. We always hear that the soldiers were brave but I can't truly grasp the true meaning of that for me. So I took time to contemplate it for this speech and try to connect it to me.
What I did was relate it to the event that recently occurred in Christchurch. Now it may not be the same as war but there were many brave people that put their lives on the line to save others.
If that doesn't speak bravery, then I don't know what does.
Like our Anzacs they too had the challenge of standing in front of a weapon, and just like our Anzacs they too had a duty to save their people. Can you imagine what it would feel like to stand up to someone firing at you with a gun?
I have a quote from the late Ernest Hemingway: "Every mans life ends the same way, it is only the details of how he lived and died, that distinguish one man from another".
This quote holds a very powerful message for me. It is not just about dying with bravery but living with bravery.
I believe that the best way we can honour those who died bravely is to live a brave life.
To me that means showing aroha and tolerance for everyone in our community, country and world, regardless of race, religion or nationality.
It means living in a way that promotes peace, so that we never again have to lose our loved ones to hatred, weaponry and war.
I am very thankful for the Anzacs and am proud to be a part of the people whom they served.