Delivered by Little, John and Trimble, David
UNB Fall Convocation Address(22 October 2000): 1-2. (UA Case 69, Box 3)
Your Honour, Mr. Chancellor, Madam President, members of the Board of Governors, honored guests, fellow graduates, family, friends, ladies and gentleman….good afternoon.
I would like to thank the Board of Governors for this high honour. I feel privileged to be sharing the dais today with two outstanding citizens of the world.
First of all, I want to congratulate all of you on a tremendous accomplishment – your university graduation. It is one of life’s biggest challenges and I know you are rightly proud of this educational achievement.
As I look down on your happy, jubilant faces, I see a group of strong, attractive and intelligent graduates who will respond enthusiastically and effectively to the challenges which lie ahead. Your first challenge is to sit through convocation addresses when you might prefer other ways of celebration. It has been said that one of the greatest accomplishments of any university graduate is that he or she has survived the commencement addresses.
In this regard, the University administration has taken pity on you, and has asked me to limit my remarks to about seven minutes. So my goal is to minimize your discomfort in these hard seats and to share some thoughts, based on my own experiences, which hopefully will help inspire you along the way to a successful and exciting future.
1955 was my last year at UNB and that must seem like the stone age to you, but to me it seems like only yesterday. Time flies when you are having fun so make sure you make the most of it!! After a post doctoral year at the University of London, England, I have had a rewarding and fulfilling career in research and senior executive management with several Canadian, American and British chemical companies. Although attributing much of my success to my parents and to my loving wife and son who are in the audience today, I also give a large share of the credit to this magnificent university. Despite seniors take none away, UNB prepared me well. When I entered the working world, I was somewhat apprehensive and asked myself if a small town boy with what was then a small Canadian university education could compete with the big boys from larger better known universities in countries like the U.S.A. and Great Britain. As you know, we Canadians tend to put ourselves down. The answer to the question turned out to be a resounding “yes”, and the more experiences I gained, the more I appreciated how well UNB had prepared me for the challenges I faced later in my life. This is a first class, five star university, and I am proud to be one of its graduates. You can be very confident that your UNB education compares favorably with the best in the world and that your future will be well served by your educational experiences here.
Today is a very big day in your lives. Enjoy it and don’t forget to take a peek at your diploma to make sure it is signed!! Tomorrow, profound changes will begin in your lives – some people would call it the beginning of the adult phase, in which perhaps for the first time, you will have full responsibility for your own future.
A good way to start is to dream a little and to set career goals. My career dreams have been realized, and yours will too if you aim high, believe in yourselves and try to be the best that you can be. Make a personal commitment to contribute constructively to the future of this country and the world. Travel as much and you can and become international in your outlook because we can learn much from other countries and cultures and because we are now part of a global community which requires leadership from nations such as ours.
Looking back at my own career, I am reminded of a famous quote by Yogi Berra, the outstanding former catcher for the New York Yankees who was noted for his malapropisms. He was quoted as saying “when you come to a fork in the road, take it”. What he probably meant was “make sure you go the right way”. Of course, at the forks which life presents to us, oftentimes we don’t know which way is the right way. At the beginning of my career and at several critical points along the way, I have taken forks in the road which turned out to be wise choices. Luck does play a role in the game of life but in my experience those who choose their paths carefully and use good judgment in following their own intuitive instincts are generally luckier and more successful than those who have few goals and little direction in their lives.
Life after graduation is normally a daunting assortment of novel challenges, requiring a double dose of nerve, grit and courage to overcome. Don’t be afraid of failure; you often learn more from failure than success. Remember, most successful entrepreneurs have more failures than successes. Oil companies drill 9 holes for every one that really flows. In my case, after 5 years of research, what I thought was my wonderful new product failed catastrophically in a test program at a cost of two million dollars to my potential customer’s corporation. Three years later, after extensive efforts to correct the problems, the product was reintroduced and became a major commercial success – eight years of research, during which many mountains were climbed and many obstacles overcome. Don’t forget what Churchill said to the British public during the Battle of Britain – “Never, never, never give up.”
Now let me give you a few closing thoughts:
a) If you aspire to be a leader, remember that all that stands between you and the top of the ladder is the ladder.
b) Education is what survives when what you have learned at university is forgotten.
c) Have the courage of your convictions and stand up for what you believe.
d) Do your duty and a little bit more, and the future will take care of itself.
e) Happiness is a habit. Cultivate it. If you love life, it will love you back.
f) Assume responsibility for the quality of your own life and stay young at heart.
g) Life is giving, not getting.
h) No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.
i) Pledge to leave the world a little better place, keep laughing, loving and learning. If you do, life after graduation will be good to you.
j) As you leave this university, may each of you ask yourself this: “What can I do to increase the sum of hope in this world? What can I also do to pass on to others the knowledge which I have gained from this outstanding educational experience?”
k) Finally, a quote from the famous Theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr:
“May God grant you the serenity to accept the things you cannot change, the courage to change the things you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
So once again, congratulations to you all. Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. I wish you all long life and happiness, and much success in your careers.
"Learning Focus of Life; UNB Fall Convocation" Daily Gleaner (23 October 2000). (UA Case 69 Box 2)
Trimble, delivering the convocation address, recalled his years in politics in Ireland and the struggles that led to the Belfast Agreement in 1998.
"One thing the years have done, because there were moments of success and moments of failure, is they have given me some perspective on the ups and down we’ve seen in the past five years."
He too warned the graduates not to let the fear of failure get in the way of their dreams, advising them instead to look both triumph and failure in the face. He said some of his friends warned him not to try to bring the Northern Ireland Protestants into a peace agreement because the risk of failure was too great.
"But without risk, there can be no success," he said.
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