2016 Fredericton Encaenia - Ceremony C

Graduation Address

Delivered by: Armstrong, Sally

Chancellor, President, faculty, special guests and graduands,

Thank you for this extraordinary honour. I am particularly delighted to be here in the presence of great friends who are also outstanding UNB grads ? Allan Ruben and his wife Rhona Levine Ruben ? well she went to Dal but she married a UNB man. And Margaret Norrie McCain - who has an honorary doctorate from this fine school and my own wonderful son-in-law Greg MacQuarrie who was in the class of 1993. And his wife, my daughter Anna who went to Kings but today she probably wishes she went to UNB.

Today is your day - all you dreamers and schemers and change agents and inventors and poets. I'm so envious of you. There has never been a better time to take your newly filled tool kit out into the world and start the story of your life. You've already written the prologue. But what will you put in the chapters to come? As I scan your faces I wonder ? which one of you will solve the cold fusion puzzle. Which one will find the cure for MS? Who will write the song we can't stop singing, the poem that brings us to tears. Which one will reform the justice system? And who among you will right the wrongs?

The chapters in your life book already have a rich setting because you live in a place that dropped everything to help Fort McMurray. You are part of a country that hung out a welcome sign for 25,000 frightened, homeless Syrians. And you along with countless students who came before you, sang Purple Rain.

You're writing your own script now. Like Dr Seuss said, "Kid, you'll move mountains! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So get on your way! You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the one who'll decide where to go. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)"

I think of the incalculable impact you will have on others ? your families, colleagues, friends and strangers. You don't have to worry about the epilogue of your life book yet but as you take your place in this wide world, remember this: you are what you condone ? at the workplace and in the community and even in the Cellar Pub.
You see, it's not unusual to want to stop an injustice, right a wrong, help someone in trouble. What is too rare is having the courage to take action. Remember the philosopher and writer Hannah Arendt ? now there's someone to slide into one of your life chapters. She spent much of her life trying to analyse the nature of good and evil. She concluded that evil thrives on apathy and cannot exist without it hence apathy is evil. You see when injustice encounters inertia it uses that passivity exactly as though it were approval and in the absence of protest evil is nourished and can flourish ? that may be the bully, the cheat or the fanatic. The nature of goodness therefore bears a very keen resemblance to intervention. People who seek to serve their conscience, or find meaning in their lives or who simply seek the quiet splendour of moral growth are obliged to get involved when something is wrong ? in the community, in the country, indeed in the world.

Most people as theatre critic Walter Kerr once put it cast themselves in the role of spectator whatever the provocation to take action. It's because we don?t see that we can make a difference. Indeed, the power brokers often dismiss civil society and especially young people, by saying the situation is too complicated. It's not complicated. The women and men in their caps and gowns sitting here today know what to do. But we're conditioned to think that no effort of ours would succeed. After all, we think, "I'm not rich or famous. I'm only one voice.? We offer excuses such as, "I don't know what to do." Or, "I may make matters worse." Or heaven forbid, "If I get involved I may look foolish." The trouble with that kind of thinking is innocent bystander is sometimes an oxymoron. People who do not intervene when something is amiss, give tacit permission for injustice to continue.

But you're from UNB. The motto of this great university Sapere Aude ? dare to be wise, dare to have the courage to seek knowledge and understanding - has by now worked its way into your soul as if by osmosis.

But still it takes awesome moral courage to go against the grain. It's tough to take a stand, to demand change. It may mean braving the disapproval of your friends, the censure of your colleagues, the wrath of society. It's been said that moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or even great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change.

So, to you the class of 2016, I say, don't hesitate. Start creating the book that is the story of your life right now. You are the art of the possible. What fun you're going to have as you live your life story. What glorious contributions you are going to make to this weary old world. You can pause to reflect on this wonderful day when we have come from near and far to celebrate you but then I urge you ? move boldly forward. You have what it takes. You're a graduate of the University of New Brunswick so you can do anything. Congratulations on your splendid achievement.

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