Our common humanity

June 21, 2016 at 10:30am Mr. Chancellor, Mr. President, Honoured Guests, Faculty Colleagues, Dr.CORBIERE LAVELL, Graduates, and Family members, Ladies and Gentlemen:

As Dean of York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, I welcome you to this Spring 2016 Convocation ceremony.

Let me congratulate you, your parents, your family, friends, grandparents and any one else who is here for you to witness this extraordinary moment in your journey.  Without their support this day could not have come about. Let us take another moment for another round of applause. Let us make it louder this time.

You are graduating at a moment when there is renewed recognition of the value of the liberal arts. There is also an increased understanding that combining both liberal and professional education is the surest way to create leaders who can transform the human condition. YOU, the graduates of this Faculty, are those leaders. During your time at this Faculty, you have acquired the knowledge and skill for that leadership – and, most important, you have developed a commitment towards a better world.

Graduates of 2016: Today is National Aboriginal Day in Canada. We have just honoured a trailblazer who fights not only for the rights of indigenous peoples but also for women’s rights. From her work we learn that the struggle for justice is indeed multi-dimensional – gender, race, economic justice all come together.

It is through the work of many activists from indigenous communities over thousands of years that we have today found the courage to confront our collective histories as a country. The Truth and Reconciliation process has helped begin a necessary dialogue between Canadians who have faced myriad injustices. This dialogue has opened our eyes to us a plethora of stories of resilience and success.

As we share these stories with one another, what we are bound to uncover is that underneath all this difference, there lies a common humanity that we all share. This common humanity is dealt a severe blow every time an indigenous woman disappears in the Highway of Tears or one death occurs in Orlando or a young person feels despair anywhere in the world.

And is there is one thing that indelibly marks this common humanity? Yes, there is: the yearning for inclusion and for justice.

Graduates: Now more than ever, we need you to reach beyond yourselves and create a world marked by inclusion – where everyone is equal, irrespective of color, gender, history or passport – and irrespective of who one chooses to love. We need you to build and foster institutions and communities that unleash the power of the cooperative, democratic, inclusive dimension of the human spirit.

Many of you are new Canadians. And many of you have been born in Canada. But together you are the new Canada. And you are this university’s proud contribution to that new Canada which boldly faces its history and aspires to move forward.

At York University, we are grateful that you chose to spend part of your journey with us. My hope is that as our youngest alumni – joining the 110,000 who came before you -  you will also make us a part of your future. You have overcome many barriers to get where you are today. Please come back to share your stories of success and resilience, inspire our students and inspire us all.

Thank you.