(Oct. 31, 1996, Gazette)
I would like, first and foremost, to thank Memorial University, its president and its Senate for the honor they have bestowed upon me.
Receiving this honorary doctorate from Memorial University has a very special meaning for me. Not only do I hold your university in very high esteem, but the artistic tradition of the people of Newfoundland, especially when it comes to music in all its forms, stands on a level of its own, and when combined with my Acadian roots and all they encompass in the sense of joie de vivre, pride, optimism and love of music, make me feel very much at home here.
Turning to you, dear graduates, I would like to leave a few thoughts with you.
You have now arrived at the end of a certain number of years of study, but don't, for one moment, think that you have finished learning.
You must continue the learning process throughout your life. Your education should have left you with a thirst to learn and an appreciation of the need to learn.
We are well into the information age, and somehow, we need to gain control of all this information -- to transform it into knowledge. To borrow T. S. Eliot's words: "Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?"
Permit me to suggest that one sure and pleasing avenue towards knowledge is the arts. By means of the arts one can elevate oneself above the everyday pleasures of the heart, to the pleasures of the mind.
When you decided to pursue your studies in this institution, you took one more step towards this development of the mind. Today, you have the "heart" pleasure of receiving a well-earned diploma and the accolades of your parents and friends -- and rightly so, but the "mind" pleasure of having learned, of having evolved intellectually, of having acquired knowledge, is much stronger and from this you will find that you derive much longer-lasting satisfaction.
To continue in this life-long development and pursuit of fulfilment, and to broaden your knowledge beyond your area of specialization, the arts, in any and all forms, offer a way of understanding this changing world around you, and of continuing this intellectual growth so that you may participate fully in making it a better world in which to live. You must continue to learn, to educate yourself and others.
You have the tools, you know where to find the information; it's up to you to broaden your knowledge and to cultivate yourself. Keep in mind these words from Mark Twain, which I have slightly modified for the occasion:
"Whoever does not read good books, does not listen to good music, does not observe the beauties which surround him, has no advantage over one who cannot read, one who cannot hear or one who cannot see."
During my career, I have travelled the world and sung on my occasions in Newfoundland. Yours is a part of the country where the arts are flourishing, where the number of exceptional artistic talents in general, and musical talents in particular, is proportionally much greater than in most places in the country. But what sets you apart in my mind is your attitude, your optimism, your outlook on life, your openness of mind, your desire to learn, your simplicity and your availability. All those qualities I have observed in many of your compatriots and mainly in those with whom I have had the privilege to work and perform, here and at the universities of Toronto and Ottawa.
From the bottom of my heart I thank you again for the honor and wish you all bonne chance et meilleurs voeux de succès in your life ahead.