Within a week, 18-year-old Jake Bailey's life went from full of promise and possibility to being told he would not survive the month.
The senior monitor, or student body president, at New Zealand's Christchurch Boys' High School delivered a speech last Wednesday at a senior class awards ceremony.
Doctors told the student his Burkitt's non-Hodgkin lymphoma would prevent him from attending, but Bailey rose to the occasion and delivered a speech viewers far beyond high school age could benefit from hearing.
From his wheelchair, Bailey thanked his fellow students, monitors, teachers and parents and shared an anecdote about his uncle Ross, a Christchurch alum who had gone on to become a famous surgeon and perform New Zealand's premier kidney transplant.
Ross drowned during a trip to Sri Lanka but, according to Bailey, was widely adored as he had “done so much in his short years, giving life to the dying.”
Now, we can't all save lives by transplanting organs, but we can make a difference in our own way... What we can choose to have is moral strength… Moral strength is about making a conscious decision to be a person who doesn't give up when it would be easy to, to be lesser because the journey is less arduous.
The high schooler encouraged his fellow classmates to take their fate into their own hands and dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to every goal.
He reminded listeners,
None of us get out of life alive, so be gallant, be great, be gracious and be grateful for the opportunities that you have…My challenge to each of you, and to myself, is to continue to grow and to develop for the better.
Following the speech, Bailey's fellow seniors performed a haka, a traditional ancestral dance similar to a step routine.
The senior monitor thanked them quietly, touched by the routine in his honor.
The entire assembly, including Bailey, then proudly sang the school song.
Christchurch Boys' High School headmaster Nic Hill wrote an update on Facebook Sunday, praising Bailey as an “inspiration.”
Jake Bailey is an inspiration (Christchurch Boys High Headmaster)The courage shown by Jake over the past few weeks has... Posted by Christchurch Boys' High School on Sunday, November 8, 2015
The courage shown by Jake over the past few weeks has been an inspiration to the school, wider community and even internationally. I couldn't have more respect for Jake as a leader and someone who has inspired people throughout the world. Jake's many attributes will help him through this battle and we'll be with him every step of the way.
Watch Bailey's full speech below for some serious perspective on how life should be lived.