Thanks to a generous donation by the Brnjac and Brannan families, Priory high schoolers traveled to Villa Duchesne Tuesday morning to hear a talk by Mr. John O’Leary, a St. Louisan with an incredible life story he now uses to inspire others.
Michael F. Baber, Head of School for Villa Duchesne welcomed students from Priory and Villa in grades 9-12, faculty, staff, and guests, and led the assembly in prayer. Sarah Barrett, Student Council President at Villa Duchesne, introduced Mr. O’Leary.
Almost from the moment he took the stage, Mr. O’Leary commanded the audience. He was engaging, witty, and forthright, using the example of his own struggles in grade school and high school to encourage everyone to be the best versions of themselves. He spoke about how God works through all things, perfectly for his purpose, even when things are hard. He talked about how our calling is to be heroes, just as his older brother became his hero, and to be examples of Christ for all those around us. He played his mother’s favorite hymn, Amazing Grace, on a keyboard, as an act of honor for her.
Mr. O’Leary spoke about the various heroes in his life – his parents, his brother, the doctors and nurses who worked so hard to save his life, even legendary Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck – and challenged the audience to share stories of one individual who had inspired us to keep fighting, to become the best version of ourselves. Courageous students from both schools stood and spoke in front of their peers. Ally, a sophomore at Villa, spoke about her brother Jimmy. Ellie, a freshman, shared that her mom helps her through everything and cheers her up when she’s sad. Kayla recognized a fellow student, her friend right there in the audience. From Priory, sophomore Bret Wang talked about Coach Steve Rolwes, who “is always there to push me, to make me be my better self.” Sophomore Noah Mollett honored his girlfriend, a Villa student named Jessie, to rousing applause from both sides of the aisle.
Finally, Mr. O’Leary shared that the Hall of Fame baseball broadcaster who made such a difference in his life and the lives of many others, continually asked himself, “What more can I do?” He said that one voice can make a difference, and that one voice is ours. We are all given gifts, and Mr. O’Leary told us to embrace each gift and use it to help others. “It’s yours,” he said. “Take it, grow, expand.” He challenged us to finish the sentence, “Because of today’s message, I commit to…” and gave us time to think while he played another song on the keyboard. As Coldplay’s The Scientist wafted over the gym, people reflected, then shared their commitments. Mr. O’Leary pointed out that the lyrics are, “Nobody said it was easy,” and reminded us that one person can make a difference.
Priory student council president Nick Boveri thanked Mr. O’Leary for his inspiring speech, and led the audience in a standing ovation.
For more information about John O’Leary’s powerful message, visit http://johnolearyinspires.com