Kings-Edgehill School Keynote


“There are few things at King’s-Edgehill School as unique and memorable as the annual Cadet Mess Dinner. It is a celebration of good humour, of our Scottish Highland roots, our traditions as the 254 Cadet Corps, and of the impressive student leadership at our School. One may not love the haggis (!), but there is much to love about the evening.

Our guest speaker this year was Carlisle Norwood from the Class of 2009. From the moment he sympathized with each student present saying, “I was once a cadet sitting just where you are now saying to myself ‘I hope this speech is short’,” he had everyone’s attention. And he kept it.

Public speaking is as much about delivery as it is about content. Carlisle’s engagingly humble and authentic manner (it did not feel like a speech) gave weight to his words of advice. He prefaced his remarks by articulating the assumption that it must be possible to learn from the experience and mistakes of others so that one does not have to make the same mistakes in order to learn and gain wisdom. His hope for the assembled cadets was that they could learn from the mistakes he had made and the lessons he had learned in the past 11 years since graduating.

I loved the directness of his advice: learn how to speak to people, it is a dying skill. Or, show appreciation to others. Or, don’t smoke cigarettes or Juuls. Or, don’t eat junk food.

At one point, Carlisle quoted the entrepreneur Jim Rohn who claimed, “You are the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.” He spent some time explaining how important it is to surround ourselves with people who will make us better, with people whose morals and beliefs align with our own. Carlisle’s advice was to be choosy at university. If our grads find themselves surrounded by a friend group that does not align with their morals, etc, Carlisle advised to change groups, to find people who are a better fit. The people around
 us matter. Ever humble, Carlisle told us that he likes to surround himself with people who are more intelligent than he is. They lift him up and make him a better person.

I was sitting at a table with five 2020 graduates: Madison Taljaard, Max Cole, Will Fleming, Ava Benedict, and Olivia Drava. I could not imagine myself surrounded by more engaging and wonderful young adults. As I looked across from me down the rows of tables, there were Ben Fleckenstein, Evan Logan, Katie Goddard, Ella Brown, Laura Gillis and all the other officers of the 254. I marvelled at how much richer my life is simply because they are in it. Halfway down the long table in front of me was Edgehill graduate Barbara (Lynch) Ryan from the Class of 1953. She graduated 67 years ago and just celebrated her 85th birthday(!). After the Mess Dinner it was clear that Barb was feeling the same way as I was about the young men and women around her. She said to me, “You know Joe, seeing these wonderful children gives me hope for the future.”