Mr. Chancellor, Mr. President, Chief Sam, Honored Guests, Members of the Graduating class, Ladies and Gentlemen:
First I would like to congratulate the members of this graduating class for their individual and collective achievements. Combining study with work and family life has posed many challenges and required sacrifices. For that reason alone your success here deserves special acknowledgement. I also want to congratulate your families and colleagues, many of whom are here today, for the critical role they have played in supporting you through the period of study. It is a remarkable achievement on all your parts, congratulations.
Mr. Chancellor and Mr. President, I am deeply moved to be invited to join you on this occasion and to receive this Honorary Degree from Royal Roads University. To be honored in my own community and in the presence of such a distinguished gathering is very special, and it is a particular honour to be here in the presence of distinguished First Nations leaders as well as former colleagues and friends. I am grateful for the unusual privilege of being granted the degree during the Convocation at which my daughter Patricia is receiving her hard earned MBA. Thank you indeed for all of this.
RRU is a young BC University, and a University with a proud history as a Canadian Military College. It is a university grounded in the present, but looking ahead, and seeking to meet the needs of learners in both traditional and non-traditional ways. When I was first associated with Royal Roads people outside the Province and overseas would ask, where or what is that place? Nowadays RRU is well recognized within and outside of British Columbia for progammes that have real world relevance, and for providing an exciting learning experience. The Global reach of the university is significant as learners come from many countries and the university reaches out from BC to many parts of the world.
My connection with Royal Roads has been primarily with the School of Peace and Conflict Management and own my experience is mostly in public administration, international development and human rights, yet I find myself speaking to business programme graduates. I wonder what in my experience is relevant to you, and what you will carry away as RRU alumnae.
Let me say something about the University. Nine years ago I asked Dr. Jim Bayer to help a Canadian project to match Canadian resources on Peaceful Conflict Management with the needs of the countries of Southeast Asia. I suppose at the time I turned to Royal Roads because of Dr. Bayer's reputation, and because the idea of a university that had been transformed from a military college into an institution that would develop a School of Peaceful Conflict Management, appealed to me. It was relevant. Linkages between Canadians and Asians grew from that initiative, and new and exciting programmes are being developed as a result. Over time I came to know the University and its distinct approach to its mandate, and I would like to congratulate the entire RRU community, the Board of Governors, the Faculty and Staff, the alumnae and the learners, on the remarkable track record of the University in its first twelve years. The foresight and tenacity that was needed to become a university in the first place are exactly the characteristics needed today in order to move forward. The Royal Roads focus serves British Columbia and Canada well. Your niche programmes in other countries build strong ties, global citizenship and trade linkages, and position Royal Roads well to engage with the Province to implement BC's educational goals.
Indeed, as I see it, the strategies and approach of this university, as set out in your Strategic Plan, foreshadowed the vision and mission articulated for British Columbia in the recently released Campus 2020 report.
Impressive examples of Royal Roads leadership and relevance include your engagement with First Nations leaders to develop programmes that bring Aboriginal people and business people together in a learning environment. Your programme with the Yekooche Nation is helping them to develop knowledge and technology for a new form of governance. The MBA programme in China delivered in Mandarin has already produced over 1000 graduates. Impressive too is the Masters Degree in Conflict Analysis and Management delivered in partnership with a consortium of Thai Universities. So too is the new Masters Degree program on Disaster and Emergency Management, a programme that is so timely it is already oversubscribed. And in yet another sphere, in cooperation with the World Bank and CIDA, programmes are being mounted for parliamentarians from the Commonwealth, from Africa and from Asia, programmes that bring leaders here to learn first hand, and take our faculty abroad to teach and to learn things that benefit us here in BC.
So what does this mean for you here today?
Dr. Cahoon spoke about the importance of making a difference. It strikes me that that concept, "making a difference", is the core of RRUs mission.
You, this afternoon's graduates, come from diverse backgrounds and sets of experience, and as well as learning in a theoretical way, those backgrounds and experience have been part of your learning modality. You have reached across traditional boundaries in the process of learning. Your networks expanded as you learned along side people from very different cultures and workplaces than your own. Your minds expanded as you explored issues and business practices relevant to today's business environment. But where will you go from here with all this newly acquired learning? How will your experience here help YOU to make a difference?
In my view your world is quite different from the one I entered at the beginning of my career. You take your new degree into a world fraught with problems, a world that seems determined to address those problems, be they in the work place, the local community or in the international arena, in ways that are increasingly confrontational.
Ethical considerations often come second to issues of economic development and power grabbing in spite of a plethora of legal and governance structures in governments and in the corporate structure.
The more world and local leaders talk about Good Governance, Rule of Law, and Promoting and Protecting Human Rights, the more we head in the opposite direction.
At a time when developed countries give huge amounts of development aid to underdeveloped nations, there is also widespread corruption (on both sides), and questions are legitimately and appropriately asked about aid effectiveness and how economic development is really generated.
At a time when the rhetoric is about peaceful means of managing and resolving conflict, the use of force seems to be the preferred response in many quarters, and even in peace-keeping roles, force is used as a tool.
Civil Liberties and Human Rights are trampled in the name of human security.
Civil disobedience seems to be on the increase as citizens are frustrated by lack of action, be it on environmental issues, land rights issues or individual rights issues.
Democratic governance should by now be synonymous with a more peaceful and ordered world, but it is not.
Take Northern Ireland where I grew up, peace has been attained after hundreds of years only by bringing the worst villains of the last century to the table to forge an agreement.
In Cambodia the remaining leaders of the Pol Pot regime have still to be brought to justice while local lawyers argue about fees for international lawyers, and victims of the regime watch as the real history of that period is expunged from text books.
In Thailand the ethnic clashes in the South, arising from centuries of discrimination, grows worse, and those who preach peaceful means of resolving it make little dent in the minds of current government leaders who seem to prefer the use of force.
In the Middle East land issues settled by forceful means in the last century are far from settled and cause hardship and suffering to this century's children.
Throughout the world religious principles are misused to incite hatred and to promote conflict.
And in all these scenarios leadership is often synonymous with confrontation and wielding of power, orally or by physical force.
And we are not immune here in Canada and in BC where environmental and land rights issues are the excuse for civil disobedience. In the workplace, labour disputes, large or small, are often the cause of confrontation or subversive actions on the part of employer or employee.
These are but some of the situations which confront you.
But I am increasingly convinced that confrontation and civil disobedience are not, in the long term, useful or effective strategies. They are short sighted responses that do not result in sustainable solutions and may in fact exacerbate the problem.
There may sometimes be a fine line between civil responsibility and civil disobedience and there is certainly plenty of room for civil society to identify issues and practices that are unacceptable, and to push for public and corporate social responsibility. However, private sector companies at times adopt socially responsible and ethical business practices only when the bottom line is threatened, or, conversely, some companies persist in exploiting employees or engaging in unethical practices because it is deemed to be uneconomical to do otherwise.
Many of you work in private sector organisations, some in government, and some in the voluntary sector. You come from developed and developing countries. You are, or you will be, in positions of influence. I hope that what you take away from Royal Roads University is not only new skills, knowledge and abilities, but a heightened awareness of your position in your own world, of being in a position to make a difference, in BC, in Canada or in your own country, and globally.
As current and future leaders, and as RRU alumnae, you will be in a position to make a difference. They key for you, as for all of us, lies in your individual code of ethics and how you apply that in your work. Individuals can and do make a difference.
I wish you well in all your future endeavors. Thank you.