Dr. Robert Evans
Chairman of Rundle College Board of Directors
Grade 12 Graduation Address
Rundle College Society
THE BEST YEARS OF YOUR LIFE
Ladies and Gentlemen, as you know, Mr. Rogers succeeded Mr. Hauk this year as Headmaster. Both are great leaders, but they have different styles. When I delivered my first graduation message about ten years ago, I met Mr. Hauk backstage. “Bob,” he said, “keep it short.” That’s my friend Mr. Hauk – direct and to the point. In contrast, when I met Mr. Rogers backstage today, he said, “Dr. Evans, I know how much you like memorable quotes”; and Mr. Rogers handed me this very attractive Rundle card with a handwritten note and a quote from comedian George Burns. It reads: “The secret of a good (speech) is to have a good beginning and a good ending…and to have the two as close together as possible.” So maybe Mr. Hauk and Mr. Rogers aren’t that different after all.
To the Rundle College Class of 2015 – “These will be the best years of your life.” Have you ever wondered why people use this phrase to describe the ages from roughly 18 to 22? You probably have more studying, more exams or a full-time job in your future. Why would these prospects lead anyone to consider these the “best years of your life”?
These are likely to be your “best years,” because you are on a collision course with three important life trends that will probably never be collectively stronger than they are right now and in the next few years. What are these three life trends? The answer concerns a Chinese philosopher, Teflon, a famous perfume, a renowned architect and a Canadian astronaut.
First, you have acquired the confidence of education – that “I can do anything and take on the world” feeling. Until this year, you attended school with older students who probably knew more and were more experienced than you. But as Grade 12s, you are now the oldest and wisest. Your education has created greater confidence within you; and that confidence, in turn, has spawned a fresh optimism about your future and all of its possibilities. In the fifth century BC, Confucius declared: “Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.” The key to sustaining that fresh optimism and the confidence of education is to make learning an enjoyable experience throughout your life. I hope you decide to do that.
The second important life trend is the thrill of discovery. When you were very young, you experienced the thrill of discovery as you learned to walk and run, memorized the alphabet and began to read or perhaps play a musical instrument. After a while, you found that new discoveries did not come as easily until you began to master the basics of a subject. But as you embark on your post-secondary years, you will re-experience the thrill of discovery. You will be able to pick your university courses or select your first full-time job. You may have the opportunity to live in a residence hall or an apartment. You will embrace a more prominent and independent role in your education and in life itself.
The thrill of discovery sometimes happens unexpectedly. Consider chemist Bill Gore who quit his job at Dupont in 1958 to start a company in his basement. Gore was exploring the commercial possibilities of Teflon when his son Bob developed a new polymer that would change the company forever. The chemical name is expanded polytetrafluoroethylene – better known as Gore-Tex. And you know the rest of the story.
So as you graduate today, you are celebrating the confidence of education. You are poised to re-experience the thrill of discovery. And finally, you are embarking on the pursuit of purpose. You are now seriously considering career options and having the satisfaction and fun of determining what you want to do in life – after all, Canadians are now expected to live to age 80; and that leaves plenty of life in which to pursue many worthy purposes.
Some people can sustain the pursuit of purpose throughout their lives. They keep reinventing themselves. Coco Chanel, fashionista and creator of Chanel No. 5 perfume, once remarked: “If you want to be irreplaceable, then you must always be changing.” And Chanel was a person who remained engaged with the pursuit of purpose throughout her 87-year life. Winston Churchill, the most important leader of the 20th century, did not become Prime Minister of Great Britain until he was 65 years old; and Michelangelo became the architect of St. Peter’s Basilica when he was 74.
If you want to maximize the possibility of reinventing yourself to enjoy the pursuit of purpose throughout your life, then become a Renaissance person by embracing a broad course of study. In recent history, it would be difficult to find a more prominent example of someone who reinvents himself than Steve Jobs of Apple. Jobs was an engineer; but he was also a skilled businessman, a self-described artist and philosopher and a consummate actor. If you become a Renaissance person like Steve Jobs, then you stand the best chance of acquiring and reacquiring the pursuit of purpose throughout your life.
So here you are – armed with the confidence of education, poised to re-acquire the thrill of discovery and ready to embark on the pursuit of purpose. And the exhilarating optimism created by these life trends is why all of us here today hope and trust that these will be “the best years of your life.”
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, a superb role model by any standard, uses six words to describe how to make the most of these next years and beyond. Hadfield says: “Be ready. Work hard. Enjoy it.”
Your family, your friends, your teachers and all of us at Rundle are proud of your accomplishments. We are even more proud of the splendid people that you have become; and we wish you the very best on the next part of life’s journey.
May God bless you and all of your efforts. Thank you, and congratulations.