Mr John Anderson Head of Year 12
As a speaker, I understand that the message I hope to impart to your year 12 students is powerful, tragic and a sad part of our history. Also, I expect a general acceptance and acknowledgement from the students. This has been the same theme ever since my first talk at Toowoomba going back many a year. However, last Wednesday was different, very engaging and possibly the most moving moment for me since my book was published. A grand accolade indeed.
Let me explain. As always the boys were quiet, attentive and drawn to the address as they leaned forward - some displaying quiet emotion. I was very moved, and hesitated once, to gain composure. Then, with my time up, I simply stopped, announced that was the end and thanked the lads and looked down. The teacher in charge, thanked the students. The applause was thunderous, lasted for at least 15 seconds, many stood. So loud, an in a rhythm almost tribal - again so moving. I was quite overcome.
Then the boys formed the longest queue. One after the other shook my hand with sincerity and many a comment, mainly thanks. Several hugged me. Every boy took off his hat as he approached. What an hard to believe moment. I think I shook every hand in the room. The last boy and I hugged, as it was obvious he had cried.
I returned to my motel room exhausted, and slept until six. Had tea, rang my wife and showered for bed. A brief look at my iPad to check emails. Then it happened.
The iPad went into jammed mode. Emails, requests and messages. An hour later, 10 % of emails answered, 42 added as friends to my Toowoomba Facebook group and dozens of messages. This has never happened so quickly before.
Up very early, wrote a message to all the Toowoomba group - some 460 - mainly ex-students over the years. My comment on Facebook thanking the current year 12 boys for yesterday. After I posted that message, another 22 requested friendship.
At Wellcamp, The friendship requests; now at 64, continue. The messages in the 100's. Many from old boys, brothers of current students, parents and other acquaintances. It was very moving to hear from them. So many memories.
I fly to Sydney. Have two hours to spare. Spent answering messages. Home at 10.30pm, spend Friday adding friends.
John, this school is the best. I have visited over 120 schools in a decade, all around Australia. Hence that comment is quite accurate.
What a privilege.
John my guess would be over 1000 contacts, emails messages and Facebook requests. That is by far the most feedback ever. Further, I rarely use Facebook - maybe once a fortnight. The fact that the boys searched and found me was amazing.
I am attending a Legacy, Returned Servicemen's fund raising group soon. I am proud that I will be able to pass on my experience at Toowoomba.