A seriously ill teenager who captivated the world with his calm wisdom is speaking in Oamaru on Monday night.
Jake Bailey is the Christchurch Boys’ High School head boy who gave his end-of-year speech in 2015 from a wheelchair, a week after being diagnosed with the most aggressive form of cancer. His words went viral:
“None of us get out of life alive, so be gallant, be gracious, and be grateful for the opportunities you have.”
After enduring gruelling treatment, Jake has been declared in remission. He moved to the Gold Coast to soak up the sunshine, eat well and carry out public speaking engagements on both sides of the Tasman.
One is at Waitaki Boys’ High School, where his Christchurch headmaster, Nic Hill, was previously deputy rector.
Jake is launching the book he wrote – Jake Bailey: What cancer taught me. Speaking to the Oamaru Mail by phone from his parents’ home in rural Canterbury, Jake said visiting high schools was the “favourite part” of his schedule.
“I love going back to high schools. There’s a sort of universal ladship.
“I seem to slot back in.”
He believes his messages are likely to be taken on board by the pupils because they can relate to him.
Although they need not expect to face calamities, they should be “consciously aware that it’s not impossible”.
They should therefore look at what they do and how they treat others.
Acting with grace was what he most wanted to get across in his Christchurch Boys’ speech.
Jake alters the content of his talks now according to the audience’s response. He starts with jokes and if they are well-received, he’ll keep working them in.
He will probably continue public speaking “for the next few years”, finding it “hugely worthwhile, rewarding, and enjoyable”.
But he doesn’t want it to overtake him.
“I’m constantly fighting against terms like ‘cancer boy’, and not being defined by a 15-minute speech.”
However, he freely acknowledges it has put him “in a position where I can, without doubt, help others”.
“If I don’t, it’s on my shoulders.”
Jake’s talk is in the Waitaki Boys’ auditorium on Monday, May 15, at 7pm. Tickets, $15 including supper, are available at the school office and Oamaru Paper Plus.