Chancellor Sauder, President Piper, Members of the Senate, & Board of Governors, Distinguished Members of the Chancellor's Party - Family, Friends and most importantly -Students: Good Morning. I particularly want to recognize and express my deepest appreciation to Dr. Piper for her dynamic vision and leadership of this terrific University - it has been a tremendous honour working with Dr. Piper, our Chancellor, the Board of Governors, the Executive Team, and all of the dedicated, staff and students at UBC. It is true that all of the good things in our lives result in large part by the role of colleagues, friends and family and so to all of you that have given me of yourselves so much and so freely, this Honorary Degree is largely yours. As Mae West said "too much of a good thing can be wonderful" and for me this is both wonderful and too much.
And for you the graduates, I am sure this is a wonderful time and I join with your Faculty, family and friends, in saying congratulations and well done. Because today is about honouring our Students, I thought I would talk about 3 notions that may be of some interest to the Students. The rest of you can listen in.
First: Some time ago I went up to Cape Dorsett on Baffin Island to visit my Inuit friend - Jimmy Manning. For reference, this place is about 2,400 km north of Montreal and if you've never been up North in this spectacular and enormous land of ours, put it on your travel plans. Anyway, Jimmy took me out as he says "on the land", which really meant a 4 day camping trip on his 16' open boat with an outboard motor, eating raw fish and bannock. On the second day we were moving along the coast in rough waters, wind blowing rain and sleet, going around enormous ice bergs, and this fog rolls in, I mean solid fog. Jimmy keeps going for about an hour and then he shuts the motor off and closes his eyes and we sit quietly in the waves for a minute or so. Then he opens his eyes and says that he got lost so he stopped, closed his eyes, and went back to where we started, and then retraced our path to where we were and now he knows which way to go to get to the bay where we were going to camp that night. That night in my sleeping bag, in a tent in the raging wind and rain, I thought about how "lost' 'I really was and how far away I was from having this ability to find myself along the journey of life and it got me thinking about who I am, in terms of time, (I mean eternity) scale, interconnectedness and self.
And from this process I developed a life operational system that keeps me on a path of actions that collectively, I call my personal North. This North is basically a set of principles, values, and common sense markers that guide the way. So when I get blown off course, and I often do, I can readjust to my North. Personally, this North, which is now a part of me, has helped me to stay on course in good times and difficult times and I encourage you to develop your own North around your own set of principles and values by which you can be, act, speak, and live a bountiful life, A life filled with straight forward actions, reactions, questions and answers. I'm reminded of this young boy, picking blueberries along the side of the road in the bushland of Alberta:
- A car pulls up & a man gets out & asks "what are you doing?"
- "Picking blueberries", says the boy
- "Let me see some of your berries" says the man
- The boy holds out his hand
- The man says, "all of these are not blue, some of them are red"
- And the boy says "blueberries are red when they are green". The straight answer.
The second notion is about roller coasters, which I really love. Life is like a roller coaster in that you get on and off at exactly the same level and place. In between-is the ride and we need to remember that the ride is made up of the ups and downs and turns and twists and that all of them contain both the joys and sorrows of life. There are good things in both the ups and in the downs and I encourage you to find them. And also you just might get to love roller coasters.
Third, is the notion of career. To me, life is like a series of interconnected rooms with each room having 1 entrance door and at least 2 exit doors. The rule of life is that you get to stay in the room as long as you're learning and having fun. When you stop learning or having fun you need to force yourself to choose an exit door and as soon as you're through that door, bingo, you're into the next room. Looking down from above we see an infinite number of interconnected rooms with endless opportunities and your life is not measured by how many rooms you've been in but rather by what you've learned and what you've given to others with your work and your fun. You might end up right next door from where you started but it doesn't matter because your life will have made a huge positive difference to us all.
Finally, I want to say that your lives are vitally important in matters of family, friends, neighbourhood, community, and citizenship. And in this, the single most dynamic act is that of giving - of yourself, of your guidance, of your friendship, of your love, of your abilities and of your resources. What you seed will largely determine what you harvest, so seed, but seed wisely, in season and in good soil. Consider your life to be a pebble and cast that pebble in the pond of tomorrow knowing that the ripples will yield much good fruit for all of us through all of eternity. Thank-you and may God Bless each and every one of you with much health, happiness, humility and grace.