Convocation Address, October 2015

Mr. Chancellor, Mr. President, Honoured Guests, Faculty Colleagues, Dr. Mary Cornish, Graduates, and Family members, Ladies and Gentlemen:

As Dean of York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (York’s largest Faculty and one of the largest in Canada), I welcome you to this Fall 2015 Convocation ceremony.

Let me begin by congratulating our graduates with the words of the first Asian Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore:

May you always rise
Like the inevitable sun that reveals itself from behind the mists
May life, victorious, find its voice in you
And in you, may the universe find that wonder it has sought

Since the very beginning of time
May you always rise...

Let me also congratulate your parents, your family, friends, grandparents and any one else who is here for you to witness this extraordinary moment in your journey. Some of you have travelled here from only a few miles away, while many others of you, like me, have left a large part of your family in a distant country. But we know that in spirit, they are here, right here, with us, perhaps a little closer with the help of technology. Let us take another moment for another round of applause for all of you for contributing to this proud moment I am so privileged to share. Let us make it louder this time.

Graduates of 2015: I wish to speak to you today about the value of collaboration. You may have heard of Helen Keller, the pioneering thinker and activist of disability. Having suddenly lost her vision and hearing when she was 19 months old, she did something that people at the time could hardly imagine.

She became the first person with such severe sensory and speech impairment to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree in the US. She also graduated Cum Laude.

As Keller said: Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much

Indeed, the world around us calls for us to be high-achieving individuals. The world admires individual success. And yet, what we achieve is never only our achievement. Look around you today.

 

It is my utmost hope that during your time at York, you have acquired that invaluable capacity to engage — engage in productive ways with those around you, to recognize the contribution of every participant, to work together and accomplish larger, possibly unimaginable, goals.

You may know that the latest research on creativity and innovation all highlight the critical importance of collaborative relationships, of support between peers, of building non-hierarchical communities where colleagues can fearlessly share ideas. In my own work with marginalized women in India, I have seen time and again how insurmountable odds are overcome through structures of support, beginning from the neigbourhood and extending to the world.

Graduates: Now more than ever, we need citizen leaders like you to reach beyond yourselves. We need you to build and foster institutions, communities, associations and businesses that unleash the power of the cooperative, democratic, inclusive dimension of the human spirit.

Together, we need to work on goals such as debt-free education, greater inclusion and global justice. Together, we need to ensure that no father ever has to watch his child slip away from his arms into the ocean of death.

 

Graduating students, I thank each of you for choosing York University. I am confident that together you will create marvels that standing here today we can hardly imagine.

Thank you.