Commencement is an event that elicits feelings of community and pride in the accomplishment of our young adults … and for me there is also a sense of hope and humility to know that we are witnessing a glimpse into what is possible. Who knows who our graduates will become in the future: doctors, nurses, diplomats, business people, entrepreneurs, engineers, entertainers, clergy, psychologists, nano-technologists, trades people, scientists, or teachers? Or perhaps we will be privileged to honour a future Premier, Prime Minister or Nobel Laureate? What we do know in this fast changing world is that they hold the key to their future.
The fact is, the world is changing so rapidly that schools are currently preparing students for some jobs that haven’t been imagined, using technologies that haven’t been invented yet. Consider that the following “in demand” jobs of today did not exist in 2001 when they started their journey: nanotechnologist, biomass plant technicians, fuel cell engineers, bio-fuels product development engineers, energy auditors, carbon credit system traders, bloggers, web content managers, social media strategists, user experience analysts, environmental economists, … and the list goes on.
What does this mean for our graduates? It means that they must be prepared to build respectful relationships and work collaboratively; to continue to think creatively and critically; and to be lifelong learners who develop mindsets, curious and open to learning and relearning new ideas and methods..
Our graduates need to remember that momentary failure is just another lesson that they can learn from. They need to be resilient because hardships and failure will come. It is how they respond that will determine their success in life. When Thomas Edison invented the incandescent light bulb he attempted and failed on hundreds of experiments to get it just right. How many of us would quit trying after just a few errors? Not Edison, for he believed that each failure was really a lesson that expanded his knowledge and brought him closer to success. Thank goodness he did, for his perseverance has been lighting up our nights for over 100 years.
Remember that the quality of perseverance is the primary key to unlocking and achieving your goals. Every individual who has had a major impact on the world, national or provincial scene and changed it for the better has understood the importance of perseverance. People like Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Tommy Douglas, Nellie McClung or former Lt. Governor Steven Lewis Point worked from their moral centre and traditional values. They never quit working towards what they believed in, despite horrendous prejudice, oppressive governments, and antiquated societal attitudes. Their persistence bought freedom, democracy, universal health care, respect and dignity to the under privileged and oppressed. The world is a kinder, healthier, more democratic and caring place because they understood, like Margaret Mead—“that a small group of committed people could change the world; in fact it is the only thing that ever has.”
I challenge our graduates to choose a purpose driven life and always ask what broader purpose their actions may serve. It may not always seem like it, but I believe we live at the best time in the best country in the world. However I also believe we can still improve collectively as a society. I challenge our graduates quoting Ghandi’s words “ to be the change you want to see.” Take part in our democracy and vote. Be sure you contribute to the common good through volunteering. Use your knowledge, and your heart, to stand up for those who can’t stand, speak for those who can’t speak, be a beacon of light for those whose lives have become dark.
Few great things are ever accomplished alone. Our graduates have accomplished great things already – but this could not have happened without the support of their parents, family, friends and educators. I encourage them to take the time to honour these mentors with gratitude for I believe that a life lived with an “attitude of gratitude” is a life filled with joy.
Finally, I wish to share with you the significance of an Eagle Feather Ceremony – a ceremony that we hold in our District in honour of our Aboriginal students who have reached a significant goal in their lives. While it is an Aboriginal tradition, it truly is representative of all of our graduates: for
Just as the Eagle has freedom of movement, we too have the freedom to reach our goals, to see beyond our perceived limits. In that way we are free to live life to its fullest.
To each graduate I offer my sincere congratulations and best wishes for a future full of promise.