Cedar College Northgate
John Duthie’s children have spent their entire schooling life at Cedar College Northgate. With Ben graduating in 2017 and Jasmine in 2015. It was also the location of the accident in 2009. John’s spine was severed by a tree and changed his life forever. John felt the need to address the graduate students, their families, teachers and other visitors at the graduation ceremony. The school was happy to give permission. The theme of the speech was “Bad things can happen in life. You cannot control all events and people that may adversely affect you. How you respond is the key” and the speech is below.
Graduation speech at Cedar College Northgate
Ben is graduating in about 90 minutes, Jasmine two years ago and I did it 35 years ago. Why do my children say I am old?
Thank you to the school, Peter and Ben for the permission to talk.
Tonight is a celebration, and very positive, but I need to share some things which are not good, then change to a more positive mood, and provide a statement to end my talk.
On September 11, 2009, at Cedar College, an Ironbark tree fell on me, narrowly missing Ben and my father, Alexander. It changed our lives forever.
My spine was severed causing paralysis from the chest down. A broken collarbone, cracked ribs and sternum, broken leg and ankle, and a neck fracture and a bruised heart. Wendy, a friend and church minister, is the only person I recall from the first few weeks.
I asked God, “where are you?”. Preventing a tree from falling should be easy since you created the world in six days.
While in rehab, I woke up in agony and unfortunately, the pain remains.
In January 2011 I returned home after 14 months in the hospital.
In 2012 my wife and I separated, and following this, I experienced mental health issues, including an attempt to hurt myself. An unexpected visitor stopped this and I spent time in psychiatric health care and heard a voice say “You do not belong here”.
Life improved. A relationship commenced with Madie, and I renewed my relationship with God at Rise Church.
I worked on my physical health and regularly lift weights, and my swimming record is 40 laps. Maintaining good mental health is also a priority.
I share my life with a disability in a blog called “WheelchairJohn.com”. And have a book being published later in 2018 whereby 30 people are sharing their lives with a disability.
I perform advocacy for disabled people, and I am a candidate in the Torrens electorate for the 2018 SA elections, representing Dignity Party.
I cannot blame God for what happened to me. God placed the right people in the right place many times, those at the accident, Wendy, the unexpected visitor, my parents, Madie, my children and friends.
I think being able to swim 40 laps, and surviving the accident, and living with my children is also miraculous.
Many people on stage have and will be congratulating the year 12 students. I will too, and congratulations on your efforts, however, I want to thank the parents, the caregivers, and everyone else who played a role in supporting the students. And students, please thank them, and reward them by keeping your bedroom tidy.
The things I want to leave with you is… “Bad things can happen in life. You cannot personally control all events and people that may adversely affect you. How you respond is the key”.