GAN, Ir. Thian Leong

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Chancellor, dedicated professors and faculty, graduates and proud families, distinguished guests and friends.

It is a great honour and privilege for me to return home to Ottawa Campus, to the place that made it possible for me to pursue my dream and contribute in my work as a professional engineer, an entrepreneur and a responsible corporate citizen. 

I wish to take this opportunity to express my sincerest thanks and deepest gratitude to the Senate, the Board of Governors of the University of Ottawa and to my professors who have nominated me to be an honorary doctorate recipient. It is the greatest honor to receive such a meaningful recognition from my alma mater.

The honour bestowed upon me is a strong positive affirmation of the quality of the academic degree I earned from the University of Ottawa. My university education has provided me a strong foundation of strengths and abilities and a set of values that provide the foundation for integrity in all my professional and business endeavors.

Indeed, I accept the honorary doctorate with pride and deep humility. This is an honour I need to share with many others who have made this day possible – my professors and mentors, my professional colleagues and all my associates in the Asia Pacific. And there is one very special group of persons to whom I’m forever indebted: my wife and family and my parents.

However, today’s special ceremony belongs to you, the new class of graduates. My personal congratulations to this fine graduating class and their proud families.

The Convocation is a celebration of an academic milestone, a celebration of your hard work and sustained disciplined efforts. You can be very proud that you have earned an academic degree, an education of high quality from one of the finest learning institutions in the world.

More significantly, today is the beginning of an exciting journey; you are prepared to go out into the “real world” and make things happen. You are well-equipped to fulfill the potential in you to make a positive change, to make a meaningful difference and to contribute to the society. 

With the quality education you have received, you are able to move with confidence to lead purposeful lives of accomplishments and contribution. You are ready and willing to work collaboratively in partnership with others – across cultural, ethnic, religious and national boundaries – to steer a path to a sustainable future that is better for everyone on this planet.

Of course, we all know that these are turbulent times we are living in, with crises posing us the toughest, most daunting challenges. However, I am confident that these are also times of unimaginable opportunities.

I believe we are living in times that offer a wide spectrum of opportunities for us to participate in building and shaping positive changes in this global environment that we share, taking us beyond our own local shores, and enabling us to break down barriers between cultures, societies and nations. These are times of new possibilities for collaborative partnerships, for eager and creative minds to explore the rich diversity in today’s globalised, interconnected world.

Many people have said to me that it’s great that I have achieved so much at my age.  But whenever I’m asked to share my success story, I have to first explain that it has taken me more than three decades to become an “overnight” success. “Instant” success needs hard, disciplined work, and a set of core values that provides the foundation for integrity. Such instant success takes long-term commitment, investment and time to build, nurture and protect.

And along the way, we have picked up the important learning lessons. Let me share a few  lessons that have proven valuable in my journey.

First, for those of us – who graduated during a major economic recession in the early 1980s and have by now been through three recessions – we have learnt a critical lesson, that is, the importance of being well equipped and prepared, whether we are in times of economic prosperity or downturns. In fact, we have learnt very early on that we cannot cite bad luck when things go poorly for us. It has always been about equipping ourselves with the necessary new skills and abilities so that we are prepared for the opportunities, to continue to grow and forge ahead.

We have learnt that it is most crucial for us to avoid the zone of comfort or complacency, especially in times of boom and prosperity. With the achievement of success comes its danger – the “traps” of success. So it pays to take heed of an old wise saying: “Do not rest on your laurels.”

It is all about the sustainability of our purposeful efforts and ultimately, the sustainability of our performance. In other words, we have to continue to prepare well, be well-grounded, for continuous positive, value-added growth and sustainable success, both as a professional and as a business organisation.

I also wish to take this opportunity to share the good advice given to me when I first started work. They are not original but I’ve come to know that success depends on practising and living this set of sound, practical advice that have served me well. So it’s now my duty to pass these learning lessons on today to the graduating class.
•    First, do what you love and do it well.  Know your passion and you will have the conviction and determination to work hard to achieve your dream.
•    Always open your mind and heart. This will enable you to learn to do what is right and do it right.
•    Recognise the need to stretch and challenge yourself. Leave your comfort zone behind. So don’t hesitate to take on the hard job and be prepared to take on more responsibilities.
•    Learn to communicate and consult effectively. In today’s world of complex projects, the best work is achieved through successful collaboration with others.
•    Always act responsibly with unyielding integrity in the pursuit of opportunities. Your performance needs to be anchored by a set of values that guide you to act responsibly, with full integrity.
•    Continue to educate yourself. Know that people obsessed with learning will continue to grow and succeed.
•    Give back to the community. The quest is to achieve both your personal and social fulfillment.
•    Finally, the future belongs to those who prepare for it today.

Graduates of Year 2009, I wish you all success in your endeavours. The road ahead is long but the journey promises to be exciting and as fulfilling as you can imagine. May you all fulfill the potential to contribute – to make a real positive difference to the world and the global community. Remember the future is in all of your hands.

In closing, I wish to say it is with a great sense of responsibility that I accept the honorary doctorate conferred upon me today. The honour is a good reminder that I need to continue my work to serve as a responsible business leader and a global citizen.

Once again, my deepest appreciation to the University, the Chancellor, the President, and my professors. I am forever indebted and I shall cherish the opportunity to be part of this great learning institution. I thank you for your warm welcome and generous hospitality. Thank you and I welcome all of you to visit Malaysia and Asia Pacific. Terima kasih.

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