Convocation Address by Principal Thomas R. Williams (Queen's University)
This speech was presented to the Queen's Commerce graduating class of 2008 at convocation on June 29
Chancellor Baillie, Rector Jackson, honoured guests, distinguished members of the faculty and staff, family and friends, and especially the graduates we celebrate on this special day.
It is my honour and pleasure to welcome you to convocation on this - the 165th year - of Queen's service to Canada and the world.
Let me begin by offering my sincere congratulations to each of you who will be awarded your degrees today. I imagine there will be few times in your lives when you will be surrounded by so many people who care so much about you - your family and friends, faculty and staff who taught and worked with you, and, your classmates.
I want to be sure on this day of celebration that the contributions of those who helped you to get to this stage are not forgotten. All of us who are enjoying the privilege of seeing sons, daughters, spouses, partners, or students graduate are happy to bask in the glow of your achievements. And I have sat out there! Some, if they are honest, may have had doubts that this day would ever come. For their support, endurance and belief in you, I believe that those in the audience who have supported you so much in the last few years deserve a vote of thanks from all of us and from you.
Today we celebrate what you have achieved in completing a tough academic program at one of Canada's most demanding universities. We recognize the sacrifices you and your families have made to make your achievement possible, and we anticipate your future success as you begin the next phase of your personal and professional lives.
Today is a transition point for most of you. Today you leave behind the relative support and security of the Queen's campus. You leave behind the relatively narrow focus of a set number of courses and predictable examination requirements. In front of you now lies the real world filled with a much broader range of responsibilities in your personal life, in your career, and in your civic and social roles.
When faced with similar challenges, your predecessors have used what they have learned here at Queen's to make lasting contributions to their professions, to their communities and their country. And, in the Queen's tradition, it is my duty to tell you that we expect no less of you.
Our society's needs are enormous. The problems you will face tomorrow may not yet exist or, may be only faintly perceived today. Those needs or problems may be the legacy of previous generations who made, what at the time, were decisions based on their best judgments. You may be required to go against that wisdom and to find new paths. As the saying goes, you may also need to speak truth to power. You will need to have courage and wisdom in such situations.
In your career, increased social consciousness, corporate responsibility and citizen engagement will present you with choices that will affect your children when they graduate from this place. We fully expect you to meet these challenges for the sake of those who will follow you. Now, it becomes your enormous responsibility to help develop new technologies, enlightened public policies, and new approaches to issues of poverty, hunger, environmental degradation, global warming, world food and energy security, equity among persons and healthcare reform, to name only a few.
Business as usual will no longer work in our world. We need you to engage society's problems with your inventiveness and energy. The poor are still with us, exploited and neglected; so are the battered children, the forgotten seniors, the homeless, the jobless, the sick and the malnourished. Canada needs people like you to help us move this country to reflect a more just society. Queen's graduates have accepted those challenges for over a century. Now, it is your turn.
Today you join the generations of Queen's women and men who are working and serving around the world in literally every field of human endeavor. Be proud - you are now members of a vital and important international organization with an expanding number of branches worldwide. There is hardly a large city in the world where you won't be able to connect with Queen's alumni. Your numbers currently stand at 138,741. Your membership is robust and growing mightily and, yes, we do and will keep track of you!
My hope is that your Queen's experience was rich and varied and has prepared you for the massive amount of challenge and change you will find just around the corner. And if I might give you one piece of personal advice, it is for you to incorporate breadth into your lives. In the rest of your life, just as during your time at Queen's, there will always be deadlines and pressures, but I hope you also have learned here the value of enjoying a good book, an inspiring performance, a stunning work of art, a quiet sunset, and good moments with friends.
In closing, I hope that you will fondly remember Queen's and return here often and that you will think of this as a lovely place beside the lake, a place that is now permanently yours.
Graduates, on behalf of the entire Queen's community, I thank you for all you have done for Queen's. You have enriched this university by your presence and you will continue to enrich it by your future accomplishments.
I offer you my very best wishes as you embark upon your future. We will miss you. Good luck and Godspeed to you all.