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President Rock, Dean Lewkowicz, most of all though this fabulous graduating class of 2014!
First of all I’d like that big red chair to be moved to the CTV National newsroom I’d love to do the news form there! Ça me fait grand plaisir d’être ici, c’est un grand honneur pour moi d’être ici aujourd’hui. It is such an honour to receive this honorary doctorate. I’m not going to lie to you though; I did accuse dean Tony of asking Alex Trebeck, you know the host of jeopardy was also a University of Ottawa graduate. Tony assured me though there was some concern that he would give the entire convocation address in the form of a question.

You have just graduated from a prestigious Canadian University, what are you going to do with the rest of your life? That is probably the most stressful question rolling around in your brain right now, with your parents within earshot. Je me souviens bien de ma graduation de l’Université d’Ottawa il y a 26 ans, la classe était beaucoup plus petite mais on a eu la même question : Qu’est-ce que tu vas faire avec ta vie? I remember so vividly when I graduated and it wasn’t too far from here, it was just over the Laurier Bridge on the lawn of Tabaret, the weather was a lot better in the 80s.

Keep in mind this was a long time ago, back when an apple was something you ate. There were no iPhones or iPads, the communication department had a room in the basement in the uni centrewith about 20 computers and you had to book them in advance to type up a paper. It was basically a communal commodore 64. We had no laptops, no cellphones, and we used to walk around with something called a Sony Walkman, a tape deck that could single handily elevate your level of cool beyond belief. Like I said it was a long time ago, when we were a much smaller graduating class. None the less I remember that day so vividly I was terrified, because as Nicolette has said, for four years I knew what I was, I was a university student at the University of Ottawa, far from my hometown of Kitchener Waterloo. I had a purpose; I was getting a degree in the arts, in communications, in the Nation’s Capital. But that day, something was over, and suddenly I was about to embark on something that scared the hell out of me: moving back into my parent’s home, living in their basement for the rest of my god given days. Anybody share that fear here?

Now we have done a shout out to your parents, so deserving, and to your supporters. Ils sont si fiers de vous tous et de ce que vous avez accomplis. They are so giddy at the fact that you will soon be financially independent.

I’ve thought a lot about what I wanted to talk to you about on such a significant day, such a significant year, the 125 anniversary of the Faculty of Arts. I’ve thought of all those students who have graduated from this school after all those years. And history really is in the fabric of those gowns that you are wearing today, I can only assume they have been dry cleaned in that time. Vous ne réalisez peut-être pas tout à fait, mais l’histoire est une partie intégrale de cette institution,de la place qu’elle pont au sein de notre pays est une réflexion de la réalité canadienne. Elle célèbre nos cultures anglophones et francophones, nos traditions et notre courage. I decided I wanted to talk to you about courage today because for me it is so top of mind, I saw it so clearly this week. I was in Moncton, New Brunswick, covering the tragic funeral of the three Canadian Mounties. Are there any graduates here from New Brunswick? We’ve got a couple, there they are. Well I have to say you should be so proud, so proud of your hometown who welcomed the nation into their private grief. Doors and hearts as wide open as the wound that that tragedy has left behind.

The courage I saw wasn’t just in the lives of those three brave Mounties who had taken the oath to serve and protect so that we wouldn’t have to. It was in the strangers I met on the streets, and it reminded me that a person isn’t born with courage. They develop it by doing small courageous things, things that cost you some mental exertion. Today, you are all courageous. It takes willpower, guts and discipline to do the work required to end up with a University degree in your hands. And I know that these past few years you’ve consumed more than your body weight in caffeine. You’ve made the grade and you’re sitting here with a degree in your hands ready to go out in the world. I also know that that sounds intimidating but you can’t give in to the fear. You have to harness that nervous energy and let it drive you because you are about to take on a new adventure into the unknown. I say unknown because from here on in the things that come your way, the people, the experiences, all of this will shape and reshape your point of view.
I can’t tell you how many times my point of view has changed through the adventures and misadventures that I’ve experienced, but all of that had taught me something. That even if the lesson is how little I know, and how much more there is to learn. It’s only when you finish this formal education that the real work begins. Learning no longer becomes just for the sake of knowing so you can ace an exam, now it’s about knowing so you can make a difference as a citizen of this world. And it is no secret in the world of 24 hour news online and on TV that the world is in a bit of a mess right now. I actually find it strange that I start every broadcast with “Good evening” then spend the next thirty minutes telling you why it wasn’t. I have had a front row seat to a lot of that mess; wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Arab Spring, Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and this week Moncton.
It has been a long list of human suffering and an overwhelming example time and again of human strength. People always say, people always say, especially to me, my family, don’t get emotional, don’t get so emotional, don’t get upset, don’t take it personally. But I am looking at you and I am looking at everything going on in the world and I am begging you to take it personally. There’s no us and them, there is only us, we’re all in this together. And I look across this theatre today and without a doubt this is one of the most beautiful things that I have seen in such a long time. A room full of marvelous minds, eager, and armed with an education that can help you make a difference and help you find success. Mais le secret du succès c’est bien plus que l’éducation. Success is not defined by education alone, there are a few intangible tools that you have to awaken and cultivate to make that happen.
First of all your gut instinct, about what’s right and wrong. Your intuition about people, loyalty, and the one that is most important is compassion and empathy, not just for your family, your relationship, or your colleagues and friends, but for the world. These tools, especially empathy, fold into making you more than just an observer. In my job it’s true I’ve been privileged to spend time with some of the most inspiring yet oppressed people in this world. In the Congo, refugee camps in the middle east, in Afghanistan, girls desperate for education that know if they live to graduate, like you are today, it’ll be against all odds. Think of those school girls in Nigeria, the threat of kidnapping always hung over those schools, but that risk was worth it for every one of them, because they believe they can make a difference.  I’m sure Tony is thinking right now “this speech is such a downer, Alex Trebek would have been so funny!”  But I actually am telling you this for a very very important reason. I want you to understand and grasp how fortunate you are to be here today, in this country and at this school with 125 years of history that has your backs. That is saying something that so much of the world cannot say. And you know though, the hidden attachment to your degree is the wonderful burden of choice. Having an interesting life is definitely the option that I would recommend, which is not easy, but of course brings me to the next secret : passion. I want to give you some advice today that somebody once gave me. Find a job you love, and don’t stop until you do, and go at it with complete passion and enthusiasm.
That right there is one of the best pieces of advice I ever received. Right now you might want to be an investment banker, because you’re good at it and the money’s pretty good too, but you actually may have a passion for writing, or art, or politics. Too many people discover too late in life that they took the wrong road professionally because they followed a paycheck and not their passion. And believe me, when they do figure it out it’s usually called a midlife crisis, and that will cost you. The bottom line is you have to love what you do in this life, you have to have a passion for it, you have to believe in it, you have to ask yourself “why am I doing this?” and listen to your own voice, and listen to yourself.  When I was at the University of Ottawa, volunteering at CFUO radio, writing for the Fulcrum, I even worked here part time, I worked as an overnight switchboard operator at Thompson Residence, boy that was an education! That’s a whole different speech though. But I dreamed of the job that I have today, I did, but it’s been a long time coming, and nothing comes easy. I’m not saying that even if you do love your job there aren’t times when you get frustrated, disillusioned, angry or scared, but that’s passion too. And I have questioned my career choice plenty of times. There really is no perfect picture, instead there are trade-offs, and every single one of us decides if those trade-offs are worth it. Quand on est vraiment soi-même, tout est possible. C’est très très important. When you are true to yourself, things fall into their rightful place. I’ve always believed that motivation trumps talent, and character almost always trumps genius, unless of course you’re a neurosurgeon then genius is very important.
So much has been written about motivation and truth from Shakespeare right on down, so you’ll forgive me if I quote a journalist. The late Edward R. Murrow once gave some valuable advice that you should know: “to be persuasive”, he said, “You must be believable, and to be believable, you must be credible, and at the core, to be credible, you must be truthful”. So if your choice is banking, or teaching, or trapeze flying, you have to be true to yourself and use your tools - honesty, loyalty, passion, because the consequence of ignoring them will eventually catch up with you. I am convinced that the key to a successful life or even more important than successful is a rewarding life, is to pour yourself into causes that are greater than yourself whether that cause if half way around the world or the soup kitchen across the street. As civil rights leader Benjamin Mays once said: “Tragedy in life does not lie in not reaching your goals, the tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.” Well you have reached this goal, and you should be so proud.

Soyez fiers, vos familles sont fières de vous, félicitations. You’ve done it and trust me, the best days of your life are still ahead of you.

Retour au profil : Lisa LaFlamme

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