Certificate Ceremony 1960
Mr W.T.Williams’ Speech
from School Records & local press
DISTINGUISHED PAST STUDENT AT SCHOOL SPEECH DAY
Ultimate end of education
STRESSING that in the final analysis the end of education was service, Mr. Tom Williams, for about ten years M.P. for South Hammersmith, now a barrister practising on the London and South Wales Circuits, held parents and pupils, governors and friends of the school absorbed with an inspiring address at the Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School annual Speech Day distribution of certificates ceremony at the Coliseum last week.
Mr. Williams, who once went to America to represent British Universities in debates with Harvard and Yale Universities, began his after-college career as a Baptist minister, holding the pastorate of one of the largest churches in the Midlands when he was still in his twenties. He then became a University tutor at Oxford for a few years. He is still only in his mid-forties.
His presence as the speaker at the annual prize day, followed an innovation last year when another old boy of the school, Mr. Handel Davies, Deputy Controller of the Farnborough Royal Aircraft Establishment, was the guest speaker. With both these pupils having fully justified their selection for the honour of delivering the school’s annual Prize Day speech, it is now confidently assumed that more and more of the school’s distinguished former pupils will be honoured in this way.
The acid test of education, said Mr. Williams, was not what happened to the geniuses and the giants, to the men who “made their mark,” the real acid test was what boys and girls did with their lives after they had left school.
IMPORTANT TO ALL
“There are many of us who never hit the headlines or reach the highlights of life, but education is important to every, one of us if it to our lives which will benefit people with whom we live and work, and helps to make the lives o1 others a little richer and a little happier,” he said.
“I went many years ago to an enormous meeting where there were between 6,000 and 7,000 people. They had come to listen to a man who was President of the United States. I remember finding myself considerably shocked to discover that he was unable to walk more than a yard without the help of others. Even the desks at which he made his many public speeches were intended to help him to stand up.
“On this particular day, the table upon which he depended for support proved a flimsy affair and he fell heavily, bruising himself and among other things sustaining two enormous black eyes. He was picked up off the floor, and then, with a minimum of delay, he began making a splendid speech which lasted an hour-and-a-quarter. It was Franklin D. Roosevelt.
“After it was over he spoke to us, a group of students from Britain, who had been accorded the honour of sharing the high table with him during the meal which followed. He turned from one to the other of us and asked each of us what we were planning to do with our lives.
“He told us that he had always wanted to be President of the United States. As he came from a wealthy family and was an able man, he had every reason to believe that he could achieve that aim. But quite suddenly he was stricken with infantile paralysis. For some years be was desperately ill — and eventually he learned that to the end of his days he would be quite unable to walk again.
“Still a young man, he rebelled against everyone and everybody—then he realised that it was quite wrong just to be bitter. He came to the conclusion that God had sent him into the world to do something with his life, and that he should do just that in spite of his handicap.
“He turned to writing. And when the great industrial depression occurred in the United States in 1933 he thought and he wrote. The people of the United States began talking about his New Deal, and eventually they turned to this crippled man and they made him their President — and they kept him in office longer than any president America has known.
“He succeeded because he was determined to live for the finest things he knew. When he died, Winston Churchill wrote: ‘Roosevelt is a man who touched greatness, but not before greatness touched him’.
NOT ALL LEADERS
“We cannot all become’ national leaders and win world fame, but we can, to the best of our ability, learn, study, work and train ourselves at least to be men of whom it can be said: ‘They did something with their lives and lived for the grandest things they knew’.”
Turning to the boys, Mr. Williams said: “You have been given the opportunities — don’t waste them. Even if you never reach great heights, never let it be said of you that you wasted your lives.”
Mr. Williams went on to say that “as a boy” he deemed it a privilege and a great honour to have been invited to come back and speak to his old school. He then disclosed that the first speech he had ever made in public was at one of the school’s speech days when he was asked to propose thanks to the day’s guest speaker, Mr. George Hall, M.P. (now Viscount Hall).
Commenting on the problems the staff and pupils had had to contend with throughout the years in a school which had almost remained the same structurally as when it was built six decades ago, Mr. Williams said: “Whatever the problems, one thing is certain, everyone who has had some association with this school must feel a tremendous pride in it. My son happened to say to me the other day ‘You are as proud of that old school as if you had been to Eton’. My reply was that Eton could do no more for its students than this school has been doing for the past sixty years.”
LOOK WITH PRIDE
Mr. Williams then told the boys that he hoped that they, too, would be able to look back with great pride on what the school had done for them.
“This school has a fine tradition, and on looking at the examination results listed in the printed programme for today’s proceedings, I am more than glad to find that the tradition is being maintained,” he declared.
He mentioned how, during the previous week, he had been reading the obituaries which had been written about Aneurin Bevan, in which comparisons had been made between him and Lloyd George, to whom the Prime Minister was that very week unveiling a memorial at Cardiff. These were two great Welshmen — their achievements an outstanding example of what might be true of all Wales.
After adding that for its size Wales had produced more men of distinction than any other country in the world. Mr. Williams recalled a statement by Lord Beaconsfield (the great statesman Disraeli) who, when asked what he would do with a tremendous fortune were he given one, had replied: “I would endow the Welsh nation.” Disraeli was not a Welshman, said Mr. Williams, but he had got to know of the qualities of the Welsh people because he had had the good sense to marry a Welsh wife.
“We should never cease to be proud of the heritage which is ours — because for many generations now, we in Wales have been producing great preachers, teachers, politicians, footballers and boxers,” he added.
The Welsh, he said, were among the most gifted of the peoples of the world, and unless Welsh people recognised that and were proud of it, they were failing their heritage. They should be proud, too, of schools like the Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School, where most of the Principality’s great men had been nurtured.
Mr. Williams was thanked for his address by two of the school’s pupils — Robert J. Harris (head prefect) and David Cummings.