By Kelly Haggart
At their June 19 convocation, students graduating from the University of Ottawa heard inspiring words of encouragement and respect from a surprise guest – the Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau.
Addressing hundreds of Faculty of Arts graduates and their guests, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began by pointing out that he himself has a bachelor of arts in English literature.
He gave a special shout-out to students graduating with a literature degree at the convocation ceremony, which would also see uOttawa confer an honorary doctorate on celebrated Quebec author Dany Laferrière.
“Take it from Dany, take it from me ... the future is wide open,” Justin Trudeau said. ”Whether you want to become a global literary giant or work for the government, you can dream and do whatever you want.”
Reflecting on his own graduation from McGill University 23 years ago, he noted that it might as well have been the middle of the last century in terms of how much had changed since then.
“Google didn’t exist. We had microfilm readers and card catalogues. If you‘d asked me then what social media was, I’d have guessed it had something to do with either a wine-and-cheese with journalism students, or just watching TV with friends in a public place.”
“Back in 1994, we could barely imagine what the world would be like in 2017 – just as you may have trouble imagining what the world will be like in 2040,” he said. “The pace of change has never been so fast, and yet it will never be this slow again. It’s hard to imagine what the future might hold. But that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare for it.”
Part of that preparation will include “accepting that you’re likely to have not just a few different jobs over your working life, but a few different careers,” the Prime Minister said.
As a former teacher and current Minister for Youth, he has had “thousands of great conversations with young Canadians like you,” he said. “And it is clear to me that you are the most engaged, informed, empowered generation that has ever lived.”
In closing, Justin Trudeau urged the students to be both ambitious and confident. “Go out and discover the world, knowing that the education you have just received has prepared you well.
“Be confident in your ability to overcome the toughest, most complex challenges of our time, because pretty soon, it will be your turn to take them on.
“Class of 2017, I have faith in you.”