Graduation Address
Delivered by Calkin, Joy

"Encaenia Address, Ceremony A." (21 May 1997). (UA Case 67, Box 3)

My fellow graduands, thank you for permitting me to share this celebration with you. It is only to you to whom I address my thoughts—while recognizing we are surrounded by those who cause each of us to feel special.

Since being a part of the University of New Brunswick much of what I have chosen to focus on is the matter of care and of caring in the context of human relationships and organizations. Like you, professionals who choose to work with human beings, I have been blessed with teachers of the art and science of caring. I will speak of some of these teachers.

First, however, let me speak with you about why this topic seems relevant—indeed essential—for you and me to consider. At universities across Canada graduands of 1997 will hear about the challenge of employment, about truth, beauty, justice or culture, about how they can make a contribution. Each of these things maters. But what I see around me are people who are injured and damaged by uncaring acts on the part of individuals (eg. family violence), on the part of groups (eg. the failure to question people on a witch hunt against a colleague), on the part of organizations (eg. permitting abuses of power), on the part of communities (eg. cutting tax support to schools and the learning of children). I want to focus on your role in these contexts.

The art of caring and acts of care are often learned between individuals. I recall my father coming to find me with a telegram announcing that I had been chosen to represent Canada at an international Girl Guide Camp in Sweden. It may not have been important in his life—but he cared enough to know it was important to me. His art was in attending to the unlikely hope of one of his children to be chosen from across the country to go abroad.

The use of the science of caring is often motivated by assessing the fit between your talents and the needs of a group of other people. My sister was just honoured as an exceptional member of Acadia’s alumni. Among the talents she chose to use were her outstanding gifts of intelligence, listening with care and acting with skill in a complex organization. She cared enough to see what she could do in behalf of her university—and to do it with critical thought and gentle acumen.

The science of care has been often demonstrated to me by friends/teachers in professions in health and education. One of those people is here today—a rural physician who has spoken out about abuse, especially against children and women, even when it was unpopular to do so. She saw a need for intelligent and active caring and did something that changes things positively. She used her scientific education to assess and to act in a caring way.

Now let me return to you, my fellow graduands. It is relatively easy to be skillful in the art of caring for those whom we love, who are like us in our lifestyles and values. It is not easy to care for the isolated, "weird" student. It is not easy to demonstrate how competent you are in the science of movement to physically or mentally challenged groups. It is not easy to persist in developing healthy lifestyles in a community that prefers pills or even surgery to prevention. It is not easy to collect data that demonstrates a fellow professional is competent when "most people" say he or she is not competent—or the reverse.

Each of you will receive a degree in recognition of your preparation in the art and science of caring. This means that you can bring intellectual rigour and skill to these tasks. I would argue that you must bring intellectual rigour and skill to caring.

To care and to be caring is not an act of sloppy sentimentality—though someone’s need for caring may engage your emotions. To care and be caring is not an act of reaching out to touch someone in physical or emotional pain because you feel moved to do so—though touch may be the appropriate professional act in the face of pain. To care and to be caring is not lashing out at members of an organization because they are harming people—though harnessing your indignation may lend energy to a thoughtful plan of action to prevent further harm.

Like me, you will see in your employment and volunteer efforts people who are injured and damaged by the uncaring acts of individuals, of groups, of organizations and of communities. You may choose to ignore these problems. You may feel concern, perhaps give voice to the concern and leave it at that. You may do as my teacher/friends have done—create caring acts built on sensitive assessments and intelligent use of their skills.

The value of your university education in the context of care and caring is that you can provide care intelligently. You can care based on the knowledge and skill you have gained at the University of New Brunswick.

You can choose to think of caring as something that is a "warm fuzzy" or as a passionate mindful act. I hope the Class of ’97 will choose to be passionately mindful in their caring…every time.

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