18-year-old Jake Bailey, a senior monitor at Christchurch Boys’ high school in New Zealand, had prepared a speech for the school's awards ceremony for graduating seniors.
But then, a week before he was due to deliver that speech, the unimaginable happened: he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, Burkitts non-Hodgkins lymphoma. His doctors said that without treatment, he’d only have weeks to live. They also said he definitely wouldn’t be able to attend the awards ceremony.
To their delight, however, Bailey proved them wrong.
The high school senior, who has been in the hospital undergoing intensive chemotherapy, didn’t just make it to the event; he also got to share the speech he’d prepared for his classmates — obviously, with a few major tweaks.
“I wrote this before I knew I had cancer, and now I have a whole new spin on it,” he said, sitting in a wheelchair.
“Here’s the thing: none of us get out of life alive. So be gallant, be great, be gracious and be grateful for the opportunities that you have."
Bailey then shared the story of his uncle, Ross Bailey, a world-renowned surgeon who had performed New Zealand’s first kidney transplant and who had suddenly drowned during a vacation in Sri Lanka. Bailey described him as someone who "dared to make a difference."
"Moral strength is about making a conscious decision to be a person who doesn't give up when it would be easy to, to be lesser because the journey is less arduous," he told the audience.
Bailey concluded his speech by urging his classmates to seize the day.
"The future is truly in our hands. Forget about having long-term dreams. Let's be passionately dedicated to the pursuit of short-term goals. Micro-ambitious," he said. "Work with pride on what is in front of us. We don't know where we might end up. Or when it might end up."
At the end of the address, the audience leapt to its feet to give him a standing ovation. As his eyes welled with tears, Bailey simply mouthed "thank you."
But it is you, Jake, who deserves to be thanked. Thank you for humbling all of us — all 274,933 people (and counting!) who have heard your speech.
(h/t New Zealand Herald)
Screengrab via Christchurch Boys' High School/YouTube