<< Back to Lion December 2020 homepage
College snapshots

Letting go of the smaller stories

Jem Kleinitz Lister presenting her Stuart Hollaway Memorial Oration online
Watch Jem present the Holloway Oration 2020

What happens when the stories we tell ourselves about our own lives come up against a much larger story, such as one about global pandemic? Jem Kleinitz-Lister, a Year 12 student from the St Kilda Road Campus, adroitly and perceptively explored this interesting idea whilst delivering this year’s Hollaway Oration in a virtual assembly at the end of Term 3.

Jem was the winner of last year’s Hollaway Memorial Prize, established to honour the memory of long-time staff member Stuart Hollaway who tragically lost his life in a climbing accident in 2015. The Prize is awarded annually to a Year 11 student who has made a significant contribution to the debating program and public speaking. The recipient for 2020 is Anyorkor Quist.

Jem’s oration was pitch-perfect for her Senior School audience and the challenges they’ve had to face. ‘What we’ve experienced this year is Exhibit A in how the stories we tell ourselves fall apart,’ she said. ‘We face the reality of living in an absurd, unpredictable world that has no consideration for  how individuals would like to exist in it. So far, so bleak; however, there are two silver linings to this fact.

‘The first is freedom. Liberating ourselves from the narratives we’ve constructed about our own life allows us to avoid creating circular patterns of self-fulfilling prophecies that limit how fulfilled we can be. Secondly, our individual stories have become eclipsed by a collective one, and in being a part of a larger community, we gain some perspective on the scope of our own difficulties.

‘It’s worth re-evaluating our own stories, as when we do, we realise that we are not planets, alone in space, orbiting our own centres of narrative gravity, we are all part of a vast galaxy, orbiting a centre beyond any individual’s control. In giving up our illusions, we are free to laugh in the face of the absurd world we live in, and better yet, we can laugh together.’

>> Watch Jem present the Holloway Oration 2020
<< Back to Lion December 2020 homepage
<< Previous story | Next story >>