Look out Newfoundland. Look out Canada. Look out world. Here they come! That is the one thought that kept going through my mind as each of you crossed the stage this evening. Congratulations, you should all be very proud.
This, too, is a very proud day for my family and me. My deepest gratitude is extended to the Senate of the university for granting me this unexpected and prestigious honor.
Dr. William Pryse-Phillips -- What can I say? I enjoyed every word. Was it necessary, though, for you to stress that it was 30 years ago when I graduated from Memorial? Could you not have marvelled, instead, at the reality that this gray-haired man is married to a young and beautiful woman who graduated in this very hall -- 31 years ago!
Mr. President, I am a great believer in this thriving university. It is a critical element in the life blood of Newfoundland and Labrador. Whatever else, it must retain its ability to provide a first-class educational experience to as many Newfoundlanders as possible. Nothing could be more important to the future of our province.
Now I know time is of the essence and that George Street awaits. So I will be brief on this wonderfully exciting evening for all of you science graduates. You are continuing on your lifelong journey of achievement, full of vitality, energy and ambition, now armed with your new degree.
This impressive ceremony, which we share together, is steeped in symbolism. The cap, the gown, the diploma and the protocol of graduation are all reminding symbols of what you have accomplished, what you have finished. With good reason, therefore, you are looking upon tonight as an occasion to celebrate a successful end of academic achievement.
And therein lies the paradox of convocation. The celebration of what you have finished is but a tiny preface to all that you have yet to achieve. Convocations are not about endings; they are about new beginnings.
All of us in Newfoundland are only a few months away from celebrating the anniversary of our discovery. This too will be a new beginning. The beginning of the next 500 years of our existence as what must truly be a "distinct society."
In Newfoundland, we began with fish. Scattered along nearly 10,000 kilometres of jagged coastline, our forbearers fished for their living. They cut their own lumber, killed their own seals, grew vegetables, hunted and trapped. They were pioneers, builders and survivors. They dared natural forces, often times perished, but always they endured. They are the people of courage from whom we have sprung.
Dr. Cyril Poole stated in his essay The Soul of Newfoundland, and I quote:
We are a singular people, or as our saying goes, "queer sticks." And we are all "queer sticks," all bent the same way; for despite difference of origin, dialect and religion, we are all children of the sea
It does not matter if we are daughters or sons of tradesmen, teachers, lawyers or public servants; or if we come from a part of this province not in sight of the sea; or if we cannot tell a halibut from a haddock from a herring; we all come from those rugged individualists who lived by and from the sea.
Of course, we are not only distinct. We are also a very special people. Who else would have no problem understanding expressions like "cute as a fox," or "bright as a button" or "stunned as me arse" without even "batting an eyelash."
For those graduates who are from Newfoundland and Labrador, you have been blessed with this heritage. I would argue, you have been empowered by it. Empowered with all your ancestors' worldly instincts to survive, endure, persist and succeed. You will need these instincts as you go about embracing change, staring down adversity and tackling the unparalleled challenges of the 21st. century.
And for you graduates who are from China, Russia, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Scotland, India, Botswana, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Nigeria, the United States and "the rest of Canada" -- have no fear! This empowerment of ancestry, this Newfoundland magic, is known to be highly contagious. It is virtually guaranteed to have "caught a hold" of you during your years of study at Memorial.
Of course, as science graduates, you are armed with more than your inspiring heritage. Each and every one of you here this evening is a proven academic achiever. This is a prerequisite for keeping pace with the incredible rate of change, particularly in technology, which is accelerating beyond anything seen before in human history.
Not a single graduate here this evening will be able to gain an exemption from these unbelievable changes. They are sweeping our world at a chaotic pace. But as we say in business: you must learn to thrive on this chaos, to have fun with it, as you launch forth in what can only be described as age of "insurmountable opportunities."
Now I know what you are thinking. That's all very well and good, but how does my bachelor of science get me a job? Well, there is no easy answer to that question and much will depend on the individual and on some good luck. The real point is, however, that it is hard to think of any other degree that begins to equip you as well as a science degree.
Of course, no one can be guaranteed a career, particularly based on a bachelor's degree. This degree simply gets you to the starting line and many of you will need to advance your learning to the graduate level. This will give you a leg up in the knowledge-based job market of today and the future.
For some, this will mean entering the world of medicine or business, or computers, or telecommunications, or education, or nutrition, or research. In this hall tonight, there are future doctors who will practice in rural Newfoundland; there are future medical researchers who might be on the team that discovers a cure for AIDS; and there are future nutritionists who might discover the missing link between eating more fish and discovering the fountain of youth. For this graduate -- do I have a job for you!
For certain, there are future university presidents. Did you know there are four Newfoundlanders, all graduates of Memorial, three of whom are science graduates, who head leading universities across Canada today. This is big stuff! It means in a very tough world you have a head start and a competitive advantage by virtue of your trained scientific mind.
You happen to be part of a special group with one of the highest employment rates and highest income brackets in today's fiercely competitive society. For some, your personal opportunities might arise elsewhere in the world, not just in Newfoundland or Canada. Do not resist these opportunities, seize them.
For those of you who choose to stay in Newfoundland (or who leave and subsequently return) please remember: While Hibernia, Voisey's Bay, Terra Nova and a restored fishery will all be part of Newfoundland's brighter tomorrow, nothing could be more relevant to our future prosperity than the building of a network of trained minds to lead this province into the next millennium. We will need you and your skills to be an integral part of that network.
My son, who is graduating with a masters in business tomorrow, upon learning of my participation in convocation, wondered out loud "How come you were not asked to address the business graduates?" My daughter, who is graduating in science here tonight questioned: "How, on earth, could you have been asked to address the science graduates?" Understandably, they were defining me by past academic pursuits and present day occupation. Quite frankly, they also had me terrified for a while in terms of addressing convocation. Then I realized that their well-intentioned questions would give me an opportunity to deal with a trap into which we all risk falling, and one which I want to encourage you to avoid. It is the trap of establishing borders, inside of which we force ourselves to live; it is the trap of setting limits related to what we can achieve; and it is the trap of narrowly defining who we can become.
Your future transcends the limitations of that trap. Your future is much more profound than that, your horizons are far more expansive, for "what you do" must never be "who you are." Think about it: What we do, must never be who we are. Who we are is defined by what satisfies the deepest need within us; how we live and love and relate with those around us; how we meaningfully and purposefully contribute to society; and most importantly, how we strive to alter and change forever the space and time we occupy.
With your empowering and inspiring heritage and your proven educational achievement, you have before you wonderfully exciting opportunities to be a person who will make a difference -- a person who will alter and change forever the space and time you occupy.
Science graduates of 1996, I am very honored to have been with you tonight on this your "new beginning." Remember to set your sights high as you head towards your new horizons.
Look out world -- here they come!