This is a really tremendous honour. Thank you. And before I go any further I want to congratulate you, our newest alumni, the 2001 graduating class of the UBC Law School . You have much to look forward to and don’t forget to keep in touch! We have a great university and our Alumni, are an important part of that. Welcome to the Alumni and Congratulations again!
This university has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My parents are both graduates of UBC and my brother, sisters and my cousin attended here. When I was ten years old I took gymnastics at War Memorial gym. I used the university library when I was in highschool.
It was during one of these visits to the library that I ran into a friend, Anne Ross. We had been competitive swimmers but were now retired, washed up at 16. Anne was a member of the UBC Vancouver Rowing Club team ,– a club program that allowed anyone to participate, even high school athletes. At that time the team had 7 people showing up every morning to row in an 8-person boat. The eighth person had a chronic problem of sleeping in. Anne knew I was dependable and was used to early morning workouts.
I’d never seen a rowing shell, was vaguely aware of the Oxford-Cambridge races but agreed to give it a try. Then, for the next three weeks, I found myself running stairs at the Thunderbird stadium! What happened to the boat that was missing a person? Finally we got into the boat and my life has never been the same.
When I was first told of this honour I was taken aback. I consider myself somewhat of a work in progress and to receive this at this time has certainly caused me some reflection.
Actually to be completely accurate I probably wouldn’t have reflected as much or as often if I wasn’t then advised that I would be addressing the razor sharp intellects of YOU, 300 UBC law graduates.
I decided it might be wise at this point to stick to sports….
I thought about this "being a work in progress", still on the journey, and recalled when I was first at the Olympics having heard the famous quote of the Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the architect of the modern Olympics. He said:
The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.
Nice words, but I can tell you when I first heard that I remember thinking, Not to win but to take part? I don’t think so…I didn’t know any athletes who were at the Olympics just to take part.
We were all there to win.
And I’m not saying that just taking part in an event such as the Olympic was not an incredible experience, It was great to take part. I remember my first games in Montreal, the Opening ceremonies… marching towards the stadium with the Canadian team.
We were under the direction of a retired drill sergeant – his face getting redder and redder as he tried to get us to march in a straight line…all these elite athletes and do you think we could march in unison? Total klutzes, as it turned out …wonderfully specialized for our sports, yes, but unable to get march in time with the other specialists.
We reached the stadium and went into the dark of the entrance tunnel - we could see ahead the light of the field. As the first Canadian athletes entered, a roar went up from the crowd which still gives me shivers. That roar continued throughout our entire march around the stadium.
And Los Angeles was also special…the Hollywood Olympics. The movie stars all wanted to meet us. I had my picture taken with Darth Vader and it was that photo, not the photo of winning the medal that my 5 year old nephew had framed on his bedroom wall.
At the Seoul games you could go to the security gate and trade a few Canadian pins for a pair of handmade snake skin shoes. Each games had a personality and was a wonderful experience in which to take part.
But when we lined up against the Bulgarians and the East Germans – I can promise you that we weren’t thinking that it was just nice to be there to take part. We all wanted to win.
But as I have thought about this idea of being a work in progress, the journey, the process, I thought again about what Baron de Coubertin said,
"The most important thing is not to win but to take part... "The most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle." The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.
I think that we, as athletes, got it wrong. We understood "to take part" as meaning to just to show up.
In retrospect, what I think "to take part" really means is be a fully engaged participant.
Because that is what we were, fully engaged, committed to excellence, committed to doing all we could to be our best. We had trained for 8 years, for 12 years nearly every morning and every afternoon.
We looked after every aspect of our being, the balancing of physiological and psychological which would help us achieve our goal.
We went over the race in our heads using imagery training hundreds and hundreds of times, planning for every possibility.
We had a focus for every stroke of the race, legs at the 250 meters, outside arm at the 500 meters. We had all put in the hours, the miles, made the sacrifices and felt if we had our best race on our best day there was no reason why we shouldn’t be the victors.
We peaked for the Olympics and we were there to win..- as was every other team, sitting ready in our boats, hearts pumping, taking those last deep calming breaths before the start.
And it is those fully engaged participants, a fleet of them, all ready at the start, all ready to give it everything, all having given it everything that made it so unique. The satisfaction and the essence of sport at the highest level is to test yourself against competitors who are equally committed.
The second equally important part of this is to take part with integrity and grace. Otherwise the test is meaningless, the victory is a hollow one and you are ultimately the loser.
Now all of this goal setting and striving for excellence may seem straight forward when you have a tangible goal like a sport competition or more specifically the Olympics. But it really is like life.
It isn’t about the victory, it is about really taking part, not just showing up, but being fully engaged.
It is the process – it is the preparation, it is the balance, mental and physical, time for serious concentration and time for fun,work and recreation, family and friends. If I hadn’t been in law school I would have gone crazy just training all the time. The memories of the challenges faced together with teammates, the hilarity and camaraderie, all invaluable. The support and love of my family and friends and sharing in their adventures.
We were serious, but sport is part of a fully engaged life…it isn’t life itself.
If it weren’t fun, challenging, if didn’t feel I could contribute to retaining what is good in sport, I wouldn’t still be involved.
When you move into this next part of YOUR journey, and your lives get so full and busy, take care not to be just a "participant."
Be an engaged participant. It is the process and the balance in the process. If the balance feels off, it probably is. Don’t be afraid to change things.
Look after all aspects of your life, mental and physical. And finally, stick to your principals, meet your challenges head-on, with integrity, determination, and grace and don’t forget the fun.
I am a work in progress. My journey is far from finished. In my work with International Sport and international sport and law and in my life generally, I am continuing to strive and fight for these principals even it is just to make the same wonderful opportunities I had, available to others.
Thank you for this award, and for the impetus it provided for me to reflect – to appreciate some accomplishments and refocus on what I believe and what I would still like to achieve-
And, finally, most of all, thank you for this opportunity to give thanks to my mentors, teachers, teammates, opponents, wonderful friends and especially my great family. Thank you.