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AFDA Cape Town postgraduate valedictory speech – Anna Catherina Visser

March 15, 2017 1:49 pm

We’ve survived the group docs and thesis writing, VALAs, gruelling shoots and final reviews.

Congratulations, Class of 2016!

We are graduating today, and we’ve achieved a massive goal – we’re on the top of our respective academic ladders!

But in the real world, you’re not necessarily going to be the smartest person in a room anymore. In fact, you are likely going to be the only person who doesn’t have a clue what’s going on.

How will you make your mark?

I don’t want to go all “Everyone’s free to wear sunscreen” on you – and if you don’t get that reference, Google it – but I want to share one of the many, many lessons I learned from my parents.

I grew up in a small town in the Northern Cape, Calvinia – about 4,5 hours’ drive from here. When I was in Grade 11, the somewhat unpopular principal at my school and I had a disagreement. He was being difficult about me leaving school 2 days before the end of term, and wouldn’t sign my report card.

I thought this was unfair, since it wasn’t like I was going on holiday – my mother was taking me to meet with career advisors in Stellenbosch. So I called him SPITEFUL.

When my mom picked me up from school later and I told her what had happened, she drove me straight to the principal’s house and made me apologise, which I did… reluctantly.

Indignant about being undermined in my teenage quest to “make a point”, I tried to get my dad’s support on the issue, but he too insisted:

“Even if you do not like someone, show them respect.”

This lesson has stuck with me, and the older I got, the more I saw and experienced its truth and value.

During my first week here at AFDA – orientation week – I kept on hearing:

“It’s not always about being the best – it’s about what you’re like to work with!”

Sure, it helps to have a fresh batch of cookies on set for when the munchies grab hold of the crew, but people respond better to knowing that their opinions matter, that their work matters, that their time matters, that they matter…

But respect is a value that is disappearing. Think of the times you’ve been on the receiving end of disrespect because of race, gender, faith, background, weight or whatever reason. Think of the division it caused.

We live in the Age of Trump where disrespect is some sick form of entertainment and it has become acceptable and common practice to dismiss and exclude people who are different.

And unfortunately, the cold hard truth is that you may not always get the same respect you show.

But you need to allow someone else their voice; even if you don’t agree with what they’re saying.

You need to shut up long enough to hear what they have to say; even if you are scared that they may sway your opinion.

You need to let them be who they need to be; we’re all on a journey of self-discovery and trying to make our way in life the best way we know how.

Being respectful doesn’t mean you have to roll over and take abuse lying down without a fight, but it is a bridge over conflict and division. So I want to encourage you to lace up your boots, grab your level and start building those bridges instead of burning them. Someone will notice the effort, cross those bridges to meet you half way and take you places.

 

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