Sunday 15 September 2019

Head boy gives emotional speech after terminal cancer diagnosis

Jake Bailey
Jake Bailey

Jonathan Wells

One week before he was due to give a speech at his New Zealand school's prize-giving ceremony, Jake Bailey was told he had three weeks to live.

Despite being told by doctors that he wouldn't be able to give the speech, the 18-year-old head boy made a surprise visit to the ceremony and delivered the 20-minute presentation without wavering.

Footage of the speech has gone viral, after it was posted to YouTube on Thursday. At the time of writing, it had attracted over 150,000 views.

A celebrated student of Christchurch Boys' High School – an institution that has educated All Blacks and Prime Ministers alike – Bailey was diagnosed with Burkitts non-Hodgkinson lymphoma a little over a week ago. This lymphoma causes one of the fastest growing tumours and requires aggressive and intensive chemotherapy to treat.

Bailey, who delivered his speech from a wheelchair, did not let the diagnosis affect his pre-planned speech, instead deciding to simply add sections or expand upon his existing words.

"I've thoroughly enjoyed growing up with each and every one of you," says Bailey, before quoting Jim Rohn, an American motivational speaker.

"Here's the thing," Bailey quotes, "none of us get out of life alive. So be gallant, be great, be gracious and be grateful for the opportunities you have."

He concluded by thanking his teachers and friends, and by underlining the importance of integrity.

"Whilst we can't be the best at everything or, at some times, anything, what we can have is moral strength. I wrote this before I knew I had cancer, and now I've put a whole new spin on it. Moral strength is about making a conscious decision to be someone who doesn't give up when it may be easy to."

In this video posted online by Christchurch Boys' High School, Bailey gives his inspirational and brave speech, after which the haka starts at 14.35 minutes.


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