Comments by
Harriet Winspear
Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa
The University of British Columbia
May 22, 2002

Eminent Chancellor, President Piper, members of the Board and of the Senate, distinguished guests and, of course, you - our very special guests - those graduating here today.

I can't tell you how pleased I am to be with you today and to be recognized by this wonderful University. I want to begin by extending very special thanks to those involved in bestowing upon me this exceptional honour, and particularly to my long-time friend, your President, Martha Piper.

My relationship with UBC is a long one... Indeed, it is 80 years ago that as an eager young student I marched proudly in what has come to be known as the Great Trek... an historic initiative which saw faculty and students join together and march seven miles through the streets of Vancouver to a site at Point Grey - this site.

And why? To encourage - indeed some would say demand - that the government finish what it had started before the First World War intruded - and that was the construction on the first phase of this now world class university.

It was exhilarating, that Great Trek... as we walked we talked with great excitement of our dreams, and of the place that UBC could and would play in the fulfillment of those dreams.

And it was successful, that Great Trek... Shortly thereafter work resumed on this site and the rest, as they say, is history.

But that Trek was important for other reasons as well. It was important because it stood for- and stands today as an example of what can, happen when people come together to build a dream.

Each of you who are graduating here today are embarking on your own Great Trek... treks that will take you far from home, from friends and family, treks that will be filled with your fair share of twists and turns, of long uphill climbs and difficult detours. But they will be your treks... our journeys of discovery.

I will be 98 in August - and in the 80 years since proudly marching in UBC's Great Trek, I have been fortunate to take part in many treks. I have travelled the world. I have met wonderful people in wonderful places.

I have come to know that the challenges of life's trek can make us strong, or can break our spirit, can guide us to places of unimaginable beauty and enrichment, or can lead us into places of confusion and failure, can bring into our lives people who will bring out the best in us and, yes, sometimes, the worst.

And so, as you leave here to embark on your Great Trek, what should you take with you? Here are but a few things that I believe are essential travelling companions.

Take with you your family and your friends. You can't, of course, pack them in your bags wherever you go - but take them with you in your mind and in your heart. They love you, they support you and they will bring you strength.

Take with you pride in who you are and in this wonderful country in which we live - for this will bring you great joy and it will buck you up when the going gets tough.

Take with you a respect for the world -- for its diversity and its complexity, for its vibrancy and its daunting challenges - for this will bring you humility and compassion and understanding.

Take with you a sense of adventure - for this will point you in new directions and afford you opportunities you have yet to imagine.

And -- take with you your love of learning. Learning is essential, of course, but learning is also fun! Make sure you never forget that. Learning will keep you alive and I stand here, at 98, to tell you that learning will keep you young.

And so, as you prepare for wherever it is that your life's journey takes you, let learning be your guide on your great trek. You will be better for it. Your family and your friends and your community will be better for it.

Dear Martha, dear friends of UBC... thank you again for this wonderful honour. It is and will forever be a very special place on my life's trek. Thank you...