Delivered by Clark, Catherine
“Valedictory Address-Ceremony B” (22 May 1997):1-3. (UA Case 68, Box 1)
Your Honour, Mr. Chancellor, Madam President, honoured guests, fellow graduates, family and friends:
Today we have finally received that coveted piece of paper that has largely defined our existence for the past few years. You may now be wondering what the real value of that piece of paper is and what exactly you have received in return for your investment here at UNB.
Perhaps you have been told that there are no more jobs in your chosen field. Or maybe you are still not sure what exact career path you would like to follow. Possibly, you have completed a very specific degree and now you are considering a completely different area for a career. Is this degree, then, a simple waste of time, effort and money?
I do not think so.
A university education is never a waste. It goes far beyond the specific information contained within the many textbooks that we have read and studied. In fact, you may have forgotten much of that information immediately after writing your final exams. University is also about learning about yourself and others and growing as a person, the type of thing that you don’t forget..
I know that I am a much different person today than when I first walked on the university campus. I am sure that the same is true for all of you. We have been exposed to people and experiences, both good and bad, that served to complete our education.
We became aware of many different issues that we might not have put our minds to previously. Feminist perspectives, disabilities, and racial and language issues are just a few that we may have been exposed to here. Because of that exposure we are now better able to see both sides of an issue or be sensitive to the views of others.
Were it not for our time studying here, we might never have seriously put our minds to these topics or at least not in such an open environment. When these issues now arise in our everyday lives, and they will, we can deal with them with an open mind. We can seek creative solutions to the difficult problems of today. That is an important part of the value of the diploma you hold in your hands.
There were also other lessons to be learned while we were here. For instance, how many of us had a sharp lesson in both time and money management? By the time April comes around many are cursing the hour lost to daylight-saving time and wishing Mr. Noodles would come out in a different flavour! We were forced to learn discipline or face the consequences later. No matter where the future takes you, you can count on this lesson still ringing true.
What other skills did you learn, perhaps without even noticing it? Social interaction, working as a team and both verbal and nonverbal communication supplemented basic reading writing skills. Through our assorted course we were forced to question the assumptions, think critically and recognize and appreciate fair reasoning.
There are the abilities that will set us apart from the mediocre who have competence in only mechanics. Without suspecting it, they have taught us to think creatively and approach problems from a variety of different angles.
Armed with these skills, we can enter and adapt to the ever-changing workplace of today. We have acquired a flexibility that ensures our survival if we remember the lessons we have learned. In addition, we must consider the university degree a stepping stone, rather than a final destination.
Rather than conclude with a quote from a learned author or academic, I have chosen instead to summarize some of the advice I have received from those whom I respect:
Never take anyone or anything for granted. Things can change in an instant. Be true to yourself and others because your reputation is your best asset. Never let anyone tell you what you can’t do.
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