Alfred Rive convocation speech

1. Somebody, I think it was H.L. Mencken, and it is obvious that he was speaking of the undergraduate colleges, once described a university as "a gentlemenís institution for the prolongation of adolescence." One may think at times, that there is justification for the gibe, but the opposite which is nearer the truth is that: "a university at least in its undergraduate departments, is, today, a public institution for the maturation of Adolescents".

It is this and a great deal more. The university carries on a long tradition: in its faculty and in its library it is the repository of learning, the conservator of our culture, On the existing foundation of learning it builds by inquiry and research, always adding more to the structure, and teaching the practice of the principles it derives in the schools of applied science and fine arts.

2. But even this is not the whole story. Today a university is a public institution and must be as varied as the community which it serves as an intellectual center. Any real university must have some ivory towers, but a collection of ivory towers will not make a university. That the University of British Columbia is not such a collection is to be seen from the list of degrees conferred yesterday and to be conferred today.

3. Not only does this university serve the province of British Columbia; it serves the whole of Canada and beyond. Its contribution extends to other countries of the world for the world of learning is not limited by political boundaries, In the past quarter century Canada has grown in wealth and population and in importance among the nations, but wealth and population alone do not explain this increased importance. It is explained more by the contributions to the world of learning made by Canadian men and women of ability and training in a variety of professions: a proportion of these men and women were trained in the universities of Canada.

4. May I use the service to which I belong and am therefore most familiar with, as an example? My first posting abroad was at Geneva in the 1930's as diplomatic secretary at the Permanent Delegation of Canada to the League of Nations, Canada is much more important at the United Nations than she was at the League. This is mainly because of the contribution her delegations are making at the General Assemblies and other meetings of the United Nations and its Associated agencies. In the intervening years the corps of Canadian foreign service officers has been built up, The delegates themselves are generally university trained men, In fact the federal cabinet is today largely made up of men trained in the universities across Canada and the staff that backs up the delegates; the Canadian foreign service officers are all, or very nearly all, men and women trained in Canadian universities, a good number right here in the University of British Columbia. To mention only the more senior of them, there is Norman Robertson our High Commissioner in London, Morley Scott, head of the United Nations Division of the Department of External Affairs at Ottawa, and Hugh Keenleyside, at one time Canadian ambassador in Mexico and now with the United Nations secretariat. I note I forgot to mention that one Cabinet minister at Ottawa, the Honourable James Sinclair is a graduate of UBC and that, since yesterday the permanent head of the department, Dana Wilgress, who received much of his schooling in Vancouver, is the holder of a degree from this university.

5. So long as Canadaís foreign service continues to receive such men and women, so long will she be able to play her full part in the councils of the nations. But a good foreign service is not enough. The Canadian foreign service cannot decide policies, it can only carry out policies decided by the government with the approval of the people of Canada, and, in the long run, those policies are decided by the people of Canada themselves. The university must do its part in shaping public opinion, not behind high walls but in free and open discussion. I do not mean that a university can determine national policy. I do mean that it can investigate facts, state principles and provide an atmosphere for the free shaping of individual opinion.

6. In the shaping of opinion in international affairs, the university' s contribution is more needed today than ever before. The years since the end of the second world war are marked by doubt and uncertainty, which is most evident, I think, among the peoples of the western world, by which I mean especially, the European countries and the English speaking peoples outside Europe, these are the peoples who created our modern world and looking upon it found it to their liking.

7. Today, as we of the west look about us we see many changes. In the countries of the East the dominance and power of the West has waned. Colonialism is dead or dying. The phrase "the white manís burden" has ceased to have meaning: the countries of the East are rapidly taking up their own burdens. Out of two colonial empires of yesterday in South and Southeast Asia five independent states, three of them already of great importance and influence, have arisen: they now make their own laws, control their own external policies and are in a fair way to take over the exploitation of their own resources.

8. The pre-eminent position of the white race is cone: the recognition of the equality of all peoples is on the way. We can no longer hope to restrict, to our own national boundaries, the doctrine that all men are created equal. Already no country or group of countries can maintain, with any hope of success, any external policy which denies complete racial equality and no important country would dare to formulate such a policy before the United Nations.

9. These changes, the trend of which is along the lines of the democratic development which has taken place in the countries of the west, are the recognizable intention of our own teachings. Although they are sometimes disquieting we must accept them and reconcile them with our own thinking. But there are other changes which are irreconcilable and alarming:: most of all the challenge of the totalitarian states to the whole basis of our democracy and the whole of our political philosophy.

10. The outstanding challenge and the greatest danger comes from communism. So far as it is or may become a military challenge, we are meeting it by building up our defences in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. (May I interject here that the first initiative toward the creation of that organisation came from Canada: our present Prime Minister, when Minister of External Affairs first formulated the case for it.) In the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation we are preparing against a war which, if it comes, will threaten the existence of our civilisation. If it falls short of destroying us utterly, we know, from the experience of two world wars, that there will be no real victors, only the defeated of both sides. Hatred will again become the instrument of national policy and the painstaking work of building amity among the peoples of the world will be undone.

11. Our fathers and grandfathers believed, or at least were taught, that if all was not well with the world, they were on the way to making it well. Freedom was slowly broadening down. There were still some dark spots on the bright shield of democracy, some blots on the scutcheon but these were gradually fading. They, our fathers, believed in themselves and in their fellow Canadians. That belief was the basis of Canadian democracy: it involved freedom of thought and opinion and freedom to express opinion, It denied authoritarianism and held that, in the long run, the good sense of the community would lead to the right decisions. They fought elections bitterly but they did not question the democratic process which provided for them.

12. This atmosphere of democracy, of free inquiry and free expression of opinion in Canada, as in other countries of the world was an atmosphere in which the sciences flourished. Man's curiosity was aroused and he felt free to investigate the world about him. Men like Darwin and Agassiz were the forerunners of hundreds and then of thousands and tens of thousands, who in satisfying their curiosity, built up the body of modern science and changed our conception of the world and of the universe.

13. Yet, when the future seemed most promising, the picture changed, The west was plunged into the first world war and for the past forty years the rosy promises of democracy and science have eluded our grasp. Small wonder, perhaps, that some among us have come to question the basis of democracy on which our world has been built.

14. I believe that the more dangerous threat from Communism is not the danger of a war of aggression by the communist powers but, the danger that, inspired by fear, we will repudiate our own faith in democracy; that we will lose our faith in our fellow men. To the man who has lost that faith, any critic of the society in which he lives, who points out defects or weaknesses and wants them remedied, is giving comfort to the enemy. Inspired by fear, he seeks to curb the freedom of thought and expression - to put bonds on democracy and so destroy what he wants to save. "What this man believes" says the aborigine, of the critic in his society "shocks me. It will offend our gods. It is blasphemy. Only by making this man suffer can we hope to avert the -wrath of our gods."

15. It is not difficult to explain why communism succeeded in Russia, in a country which had not felt the pulse of democracy. There was so much there to destroy and so little on which to build a new society: so much longstanding hate engendered by ancient wrongs that the will to conserve what good might be there scarcely existed. Not so in Canada and the other countries in which there has been a steady broadening of democracy, a steady improvement in the conditions of life and in the status of the individual and the ever present opportunity for each to play his part in shaping the life of the community.

166 The struggle against communism in the western countries will be won by the great majority of decent citizens who value their personal freedom and who believe that every man has a right to his opinions. They feel no restraints on the opportunity to play their parts in building a good life for their families and their community. They see both the good and evil in our society, but, on the whole, they respect and love their fellow men and work with them in various groups and organizations for a variety of ends, all of which tend to strengthen the ties that bind the community together.

17. Among men who share the faith in democracy are some to whom the maladjustments in our society are a challenge. One such, whom many of you will remember, was Harry Cassidy who graduated from the University of British Columbia in the class of 1923. He had faith in his fellow men. He had vision, He did not tire of well doing, No one who has read the story of his last days can fail to be inspired by his faith and courage. Such men as he are not inspired by fear, Their security is an inward thing based fundamentally on humility and love.

18. Between the democratic countries of the west and the communist states are a great number of countries which are neither democratic nor communist: some are long independent, some have newly achieved their independence, some are colonies. For the peoples of many of them the conditions of life are hard: life is short and the struggle for existence gives little time for the consideration of the claims of conflicting ideologies. These countries offer a challenge to the democracies, for the treatment we accord them may decide the future of the world for a thousand years. If we befriend them, accept them as equals in the family of nations and help them to improve their lot we may gain their co-operation and understanding. If we fail them we hand them over to communism and to the exploitation of envy and hatred. It is well that through the United Nations and the Colombo plan we are helping them to help themselves. I am glad that the University of British Columbia is playing its part in the work, more will be required of us.

19. These developments demonstrate the present importance of the social sciences. The popularity of the various faculties of a university vary over the years. At present, the demand for scientific workers to help in the exploitation of the riches of Canada is drawing students into the applied sciences, The effect on the community of scientific development in production is an important subject of study from the point of view of the well-being of the community. The universities must not be found wanting here. Although his conclusions cannot be as certain as those of the engineer, only the student of Law and relationships and social institutions can advise us on the social effects, on the community, of the changes resulting from the application of the discoveries of workers in the more exact sciences.

20. In discussing the importance of the application of the sciences in the community, let us not forget the workers in the field of pure research, in religion and philosophy, in the humanities and the classics. Their part in keeping alive the tradition of learning, in conserving and adding to knowledge is vital to the maintenance of our culture for they are the living fabric of learning. Let us not forget either those who practise the fine arts for they interpret experience and give us inspiration. In the long run these two groups may make the greatest contribution to understanding between the peoples; their role may be vital in bringing east and west together.

21. I began this talk by giving a definition of a university, in its undergraduate departments, as a public institution for the maturation of adolescents. I did not mean that just as a witticism, An important difference between a child and a mature man is that the child needs a parent to tell him what to think and how to act. He looks to someone else for the mental security and certainty he needs. The truly adult man has learned that he cannot always have certainty but that he has a source of mental security within himself; he has learned to make his own mental adjustments and, in the exchange of ideas with others, to formulate his own opinions. I count it my good fortune that, as a sophomore at UBC in 1919-20 I encountered Professor T.H. Boggs and was a student in his course in elementary economics. His classes were much more than lectures on economics: they were discussion groups in which the students were encouraged to consider critically the lectures, the textbooks and the opinions of fellow students, and to put forward their own ideas for criticism. The student of Teddy Boggs sought out the works of reference, not only because they were prescribed reading, but to strengthen his own arguments at the next meeting of the class. These classes might have seemed disrespectful and even disorderly, to an outside observer but Teddy Boggs inspired an interest in economic and social problems in many young men and women, which carried them on into graduate work in that field. There can be few who sat in his courses who did not come out at the end of the course with a better appreciation of the value of the free interplay of ideas in free discussion. This is the part of process by which young men and women reach maturity. I hope that the tradition of a critical attitude and free discussion is still alive at UBC not only in the undergraduate courses, but in the whole work of the university, among graduate students, research workers and faculty. There are few who by themselves can accomplish much in the field of knowledge, Even the man in the ivory tower must have his books. It is by the free exchange of information and opinion by workers in all fields that the freest results are obtained. The more varied the opinions, the freer the exchange the more likely it is that worthwhile conclusions will be reached. The university cannot shut its doors to any earnest student without doing harm to itself and endangering its contribution to the community.

22. If the university has a duty to the community, the community also has a duty to the university. If the university must maintain the high standard of freedom of' inquiry and expression of opinion, the community must not seek to exercise control over this freedom. The granting of financial assistance to a university must be to further the purposes of a university, to provide for free inquiry into the solution of problems. The giver of money may define the subject and scope of an inquiry, if he wishes, but he cannot prescribe the conclusions. This is evident to everyone in the field of applied science. it is not always so evident in the social sciences, But if the giver wishes to propagate a particular doctrine in any field, the university is not fit recipient of his gift. There are foundations created to teach doctrines, that is not the function of a university.

23. So let me recapitulate. I see the university in its various aspects as a repository of knowledge, devoted to the increase of knowledge by inquiry and research, a place for the exchange of information and the interplay of ideas, for determining how knowledge can be applied to the problems of the community, for helping in the formulation of public opinion, for training young men and women in their professions, for encouraging the arts; concerning itself with all the thought of mankind, studying, sifting, analysing, discarding the false and ever adding to the body of knowledge. In a democratic society if must itself be democratic admitting all, whatever their race or creed. It must recognize no boundaries to thought. In short, it must be universal.