When 18-year-old New Zealand student Jake Bailey was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, performing a speech at his school’s graduation ceremony was probably the last thing on his mind. That he could even attend his graduation ceremony, at which he was valedictorian, was undeniably ruled out.
Yet he did it anyway – and it was breathtaking.
Jake was told he had Burkitt lymphoma just a few weeks before the event and that he would need to undergo intensive chemotherapy immediately. Speaking from a wheelchair on a release day from the hospital, he delivered the original version of his speech, which was written before his diagnosis.
“I wrote this before I knew I had cancer, and now I have a whole new spin on it,” he said. “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.”
The video of his speech has gone viral and his school has been overwhelmed with messages of support. These are 18 minutes worth watching:
Jake’s words were so moving that his peers performed an emotional haka, a traditional ancestral war cry with deep cultural significance, following the speech.