Saturday, 22 January 2011, 6.00pm
Chancellor, Vice-chancellor, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Fellow Graduates, it’s an honour to be speaking to you all today. I must say though, that writing this speech has brought back many memories of my time at university like little else has.
In fact, it reminded me of the process I went through when writing assignments. So, after what seems like a million trips to the fridge, a continual relay with the coffee pot, much more junk food than you could poke a stick at and countless facebook visits, here we are. I’m not sure whether this was a reflection of your approach to uni assignments too, but I’m sure you found some genius way to occupy yourself when those assignments needed to be completed. And yet – you managed to overcome a multitude of distractions, hand in your assignments, study for those tests and deal with all the stress. It really is an achievement, and feel free to consider yourselves as having earnt 2 degrees – one for procrastination.. and one from ECU.
I have no doubt though, that you all had to cope with many obstacles to be sitting here tonight – it didn’t come easily. Whether it be battling study with a family, friendship dramas, personal crises or anything else – you made it through! Something gave you the drive and the motivation to finish. I hope you’ve had a chance to reflect on where that motivation came from and can use it to power on forward from here in whichever path you decide. Perhaps it was family, friends, work, or those special people who you invited tonight to see you graduate. Regardless, you made it!
A large part of my motivation actually came from a guy who I had never met, and would never remember even if I fell over him. Sorry if you’re sitting out there! A group of us were sitting having coffee after some long lectures and he overhead that I was only 16. He was amazed at my age and told me that I wouldn’t make it through my uni degree, because students that young never stick to what they started with. Well.. I thought, that’s it! I’m finishing it now! So I did. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t a wise decision to base my motivation on proving someone else wrong, but it gave me the motivation to get here and it’s turned out so much better than I had expected. Definitely not the path I had originally intended to take.
I hope your degree has led you to where you want to be, and you have a direction from here. If not though, it’s good to see your degree has been useful in showing you that this isn’t perhaps (the path for you) the direction that you want to take. I’m sure there is another path out there that you’ll travel down which you’ll love – it’s just a matter of finding it. As Ralph waldo emerson once said “life is about the journey, not the destination.” I have no doubt that you’ve learnt something from the journey uni has taken you on… even if it is that, despite what lecturers tell you, 3am is a very practical time for writing assignments, or the pub is an excellent alternative to lectures, or even how useful stress really is. I learnt to tolerate stress because it kept me focused and working like a Trojan toward the assignment. In fact, I’m sure many of you took up near-permanent residence in the elab with me while we all consoled each other through every stressful period.
But, in spite of all of this, you have a degree under your belt and many open doors ahead of you just waiting to be walked through. Congratulations to all of you for getting to this point, and on behalf of all the students present tonight, thank you to all those that helped to get us here! With luck, your continued support, a few more hundred facebook checks and masses of coffee, we will all achieve anything we set out to! I wish you all the very best! Thank you.