Please note: Speeches appear in the language in which they were delivered.

Bon après-midi, mesdames et messieurs. Je suis enchanté de me joindre à vous pour cette heureuse cérémonie. Je tiens à remercier l’Université d’Ottawa pour ce très grand honneur qu’elle me fait. Je veux aussi féliciter toux ceux et celles à qui l’on remet un diplôme aujourd’hui : c’est pour moi un privilège de me trouver en votre compagnie.

In getting instruction about today’s activities, I was admonished to say something useful and interesting… but to do so in a very short time. This is surely good advice. I can remember my own graduation which took place more than forty years ago… I couldn’t wait for the formalities to be concluded. I suspect most of you feel this way right now. And, by the way, I don’t recall a single thing that the convocation speaker said.

So, recognizing the realities of the situation, I will try to keep my message as brief and as simple as possible.

As you’ve heard from the fine introduction that was read by Prof. Micheàl Kelly, I’m here today largely as a result of the business success that I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy.

My success story is somewhat improbable – after all I came to Canada as a young boy, my father was a construction worker who died in an accident shortly after we arrived, I was not -- as they say -- “well introduced” to say the least. But while my story may be improbable, it is hardly unique. I know of many people who have similar stories to tell. What it signifies to me is the incredible opportunity that our society affords those with desire and ambition.

Nous vivons une période d’instabilité et de grandes turbulences. Les changements se succèdent à un rythme étourdissant. Si les progrès technologiques ont le pouvoir de rapprocher les gens, c’est souvent le contraire qui semble se produire. L’une après l’autre, nos institutions – nos églises, nos gouvernements et nos grandes entreprises – se révèlent incapables de répondre à nos attentes. Et, bien sûr, les tensions extrêmes qui règnent dans tant de régions du globe sèment la destruction et la désolation à vaste échelle, comme les journaux nous le rappellent quotidiennement.

Dans un tel contexte, il serait facile d’être déprimé ou même pessimiste face à l’avenir. Ce n’est pourtant pas la bonne solution pour aucun d’entre vous. J’aimerais plutôt vous convaincre aujourd’hui des raisons pour lesquelles vous devriez envisager l’avenir avec confiance.

Tout d’abord, vous venez de réussir un programme d’études dans un des meilleurs établissements d’enseignement du pays. Vous avez prouvé que vous possédiez la matière grise et la détermination dont on a besoin pour réussir. Vous méritez tous des félicitations.

Par ailleurs, vous habitez l’un des pays les mieux nantis de la planète. Je m’étonne toujours que les Canadiens ne soient pas davantage conscients de tout ce qui rend leur pays si unique et si spécial. J’ai eu l’occasion de vivre dans plusieurs pays du monde et mon travail m’amène à beaucoup voyager. Je ne connais aucun autre endroit où la qualité de vie est meilleure qu’ici. Quoi qu’en disent les médias, nos institutions publiques et privées comptent parmi les plus honnêtes et les plus compétentes de toute la planète. Ce serait une grave erreur de votre part que de croire le contraire.

Another reason for optimism is the fact the world is globalizing. There is now an almost totally open and global market for capital, for goods and services and as importantly -- thanks to the internet -- for information and for ideas. What a powerful and I believe liberating development the globalization trend is. With the increase in cross border investment and trade, comes a concurrent increase in the opportunity for individuals to exercise their skills anywhere that they choose to. In my own company Canadians have run Manulife businesses in many of our jurisdictions including the U.S., Canada, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand.  The skills that you have learned at University of Ottawa may well be put to use one day on the other side of the world.

I can’t tell you how much I regret that the word globalization has taken on a negative connotation. Too often it is used as shorthand for the vague, uneasy feeling that rapid change gives rise to. It puzzles me for instance to read of the “threat” that the rise of China and India supposedly presents for Canada and other countries in the West. As we all know, the economies of both these countries are growing at a very fast rate and some see this growth as a threat. Why? Are we not aware that underlying this growth is the movement of literally hundreds of millions of people out of abject poverty; that never in human history has anything comparable happened? Would we all be less threatened if these countries remained on the fringes and didn’t provide their citizens with an improving standard of living? I don’t think so!

In fact, globalization is, I would argue, making the pie bigger for everyone… not shrinking our share of it as some would have us believe. And in the process of growing the economic pie, employment and career opportunities will surely increase.

As you can see, I feel very passionately about Canada’s prospects, particularly in a global environment.  I am immensely proud to head a Canadian company that is considered a “global champion”, that competes head to head with the best in the world.  These sorts of institutions keep our best and brightest here in Canada, provide vitality and excitement to the communities where they are located and are fundamental to a nation’s sense of self.  As you contemplate your next steps, I encourage you to consider what you can do to help develop and sustain Canadian global champions in whatever field you choose – after all, you are our best and brightest.  In the process, you will not only build a wonderful career for yourself, but also help to build this great country of ours.

Anyway, for these and a host of other reasons, I believe that you should all be confident about the future.

If I had to add just a few final pieces of advice on this important day, they would be the following:

  • ƒnRemain curious; never stop learning. If you think that your education ends with the degree that is conferred to you today, then I’m afraid that you risk leading an unfulfilled life.
  • ƒnƒnBe ambitious; set high goals for yourself. Nothing much was ever accomplished by those who set the bar at a low level.
  • ƒnAlways conduct yourself with integrity. Your honour is your most precious asset. Nothing else comes close.

These simple rules have served me well throughout my life. I hope that they do the same for each of you too. And finally, travel and see the world; it will help you appreciate what a marvelous country we have.

On that note, I’d like to thank you for your time and wish you all the best for an exciting and fulfilling future.

Back to profile: Dominic D'ALESSANDRO

Back to top