Convocation remarks

June 09, 2005, vol. 33, no. 4



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Jack Blaney

I'm sure what you want me to talk about is exactly how the single transferable vote works.

I will discuss the Citizens' Assembly, as an innovation in citizen engagement. In particular, I want to talk about your engagement, and your leadership, as citizens of Canada.

The Citizens' Assembly was indeed historic. Never before had a government given ordinary citizens such an independent and powerful role in shaping an important public policy question.

However, equally historic, was the commitment - the record-breaking commitment - shown by the 160 members of the assembly.

But note that the assembly is government-initiated citizen engagement.

And, as important as that engagement is, and, it certainly is, we have yet to invent equally potent ways to dramatically bolster individual leadership - strong, courageous, moral leadership.

We need to invent ways to get people interested in becoming effective, trusted and inspiring leaders. What research and development could pay greater dividends? And why not invent it right here in B.C.?

We simply need more people of all ages to step up and take charge. The opportunities for public leadership are all around us, especially for you, and especially for Canada.

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Leila Getz

It is truly inspiring to be with all of you in this magnificent setting. And it is just that subject - inspiration - that I'd like to talk about very briefly. For it is that, truly, that has defined the path to where I now stand.

I have been extraordinarily lucky. I grew up in South Africa, a land that inspires one for so many reasons. Even under the terrible yoke of apartheid, its oppressed people maintained their optimism and their deep conviction that the spirit of humanity would ultimately triumph, as it has done, and that they could live their lives in peace and harmony and realize their full potential.

Growing up there, one could not but be inspired by their courage, their resilience and their confidence in a brighter future. But as a young person, I also had another, possibly greater inspiration: music. It is music that has filled my life with purpose.

I launched the Vancouver Recital Society in 1980. I didn't have the slightest idea of what I was getting in to, but ignorance is bliss. For the past 26 years I have had an education second to none, and it continues to this day. And while the arts has been a wonderful career for me, it is ultimately not the career part of it that drives me.

It is the inspiration of great performances that move and transform one, and send one out of the theatre changed. It is the opportunity to share that inspiration with others and encourage them to allow themselves to be moved by it.

Artistic encounters like this put colour into our lives, both individually and as a society. They challenge, educate and entertain us and uplift our spirits.

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Brandt Louie

I find myself reflecting on the thousands of men and women who, over the past 40 years, have crossed this platform to be acknowledged for their numerous and diverse accomplishments.

The degree that you have just bestowed upon me is one of the most arduous to earn. Most degrees require about four to six years of hard work to complete. On the other hand, this degree has taken me a lifetime of work experience and service to the community to achieve.

Graduates, you are beginning the journey that I started over 40 years ago. As I reflected on the past 40 years, I searched my experiences for insight that I could share with you.

When I was starting out, the hero of our day was John Fitzgerald Kennedy. For my generation, he represented a break from the old, a change of leadership representing our 20th century, our new way of thinking about problems that faced our world at that time.

I recently had the opportunity of visiting the Kennedy school of government, at Harvard University, and I used that opportunity to research a number of President Kennedy's speeches. I found myself particularly moved by an address he gave to the graduating class of 1963 at Amherst College.

He spoke about power and how it is created, questioned, and used for both good and bad. He urged his students to always question and ask "Why?"

He said: "The men who create power make an indispensable contribution to the nation's greatness. But the men who question power make a contribution just as indispensable, especially when that question is disinterested, for they determine whether we use power or power uses us."

So I urge all of you to always question those who create and use power. Make your voices heard for the good of all the people.

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Michael Audain

I believe that it is customary for old-age pensioners like me to give some advice to the graduating class, presumably based on one's experience.

This is not easy as my career has really been a series of accidents. In my younger days, I was a professional student because I discovered I could make more money on an after-tax basis receiving fellowships from funding agencies that didn't talk to each other, than from holding down a job.

It was a good life, but eventually I became bored and then drifted from job to job, until a good friend at lunch 25 years ago told me that he was proposing to invest in a residential construction business and would like me to run it. "Sure," I replied. "When do I start?" "Tomorrow," he said. It was then I realized that I had accepted the offer without working out either how I would learn to build homes or bothering to inquire about a pay cheque.

To get ahead in life you need to work fairly hard. That's for sure. I recall Kemmons Wilson, the founder of the Holiday Inn chain, once saying, "Work only half a day. It doesn't matter which half. The first 12 hours or the second 12 hours."

But, another thing that will be essential for success is the ability to take risks, and this applies in your personal life as well as in your career.

In the business world, Canadians have the reputation of being more risk adverse compared to other nationalities.

Whether this is true or not, I'm not sure. If there is one thing I can pass along, it is don't be afraid to be a little different from the pack that you run with. Most progress in life is pioneered by non-conformists. As Mark Twain said, "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect."

The world needs more people who are prepared to challenge established modes of thinking, and then once they have surveyed the lay of the land, to move forward on their own course.

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