Graduation - 2015
Can you wait? Can you change?
Student body, faculty, parents, honoured guests and gradates, it is my honour to address you today.
Grade 12 students - let me first congratulate you. You are crossing one of the finest milestones in your lives. This is the end of your ‘mandatory’ formal education. I bet you can hardly wait to move on and see what changes lie ahead! You are moving into a world where you now, will be in charge of what you decide to do, what you care to learn and how you choose to live. In my observations, if you continue along the path you have set for yourselves, your futures are bright.
At the onset of this year I challenged our community to be ‘kinder than is necessary’ - Grade 12’s your actions have embodied this very sentiment. You have not only won close games, banners, individual championships, and a home court, nail biting, heart pounding provincial championships - you have been spectacular sportsmen and women along the way. You have acted and performed musically on our stages and on the streets of New Orleans, you have used your gifts to provided joy to those who needed it most. You have not only travelled thousands of kilometers to experience new cultures, you have also taken time to give back to communities, organizations and individuals at home and around the globe. You have not only studied and achieved your best, you have cared for those in our Rundle community when they most needed you. Whether it was athletics, the arts, character initiatives or academics - you found a way to be kinder than was necessary - for this, please accept my personal thanks.
How many of you are so excited you can hardly wait to see what changes will come? Good - because ironically, this entire address is based around waiting and changing… waiting and changing...
Now, today, I hope to share with you two stories that will help inform and guide you as you move from these spectacular moment into your futures.
Let me start with a question, “Raise your hand if you would eat a marshmallow (or a cookie or something other delectable treat), right now, if I was able to offer you one.”
Believe it or not, this was the exact conundrum that was presented to preschool children in the 1970’s by Stanford researcher Walter Mischel. The experiment design was simple, he placed a 4 year old in a room with one singular marshmallow. He then simply said, I am going to leave the room now and if you can wait for a short time until I return to eat that marshmallow, I will give you one more and you can eat them both. Now, this experiment has been replicated several times with marshmallows and other tempting treats like cookies and the results have always been the same. Roughly 65% of children choose to eat the singular marshmallow and 35% of the children are able to wait. Now - you may be asking yourself - why, Mr. Rogers, are you choosing to dwell on marshmallows today - this is not only a divergent tract but a cruelly tempting one? You are making me hungry… this is not fair! Give me just one moment and I’ll get to the point. Now, Walter Mischel was not actually studying marshmallows, he was studying the children’s ability to delay gratification - or to persevere. What he found was remarkable. He followed those same children into their adult lives. He found that those who were able to wait had better jobs, had lower rates of obesity, were less likely to abuse drugs and ultimately were happier and more fulfilled. My first question to you is - “Can you wait?”
Here’s the next group question, “How many of you have a camera on you right now?” (it’s okay if that camera is on your phone, it still counts) - selfie opportunity...
This next brief story will take you back to the beginning of personal cameras. In the year 1878 an innovative company lead by George Eastman pioneered a way to make the film development process so compact and refined, almost anybody could own a camera. (prior to this date, pictures could only be recorded on plates of glass - and you can imagine how much trouble that might cause). You may have heard of George Eastman’s company, he named it Kodak. For the next 100 years, the Kodak film company had an absolute monopoly on film and picture production. They were so far ahead for over a century, it was universally accepted that they would never be caught. Then in the early 1980’s, some young computer scientists started to toy with digital photography. Many people within Kodak argued that Kodak should ‘get with the times’ and start their own digital department and start experimenting with change. The upper management at Kodak considered changing but ultimately decided this digital revolution was too far in the future, and besides, Kodak was the industry standard and would never be defeated… especially by something as flippant and unrefined as digital photography. Let’s fast forward to today - if you were to Google Kodak on your cameras… I mean your phones… you would find that Kodak went bankrupt in 2012 and no longer exists in it’s original structure.
This leads me to my second question for you, “Can you change?”
I think these two paradoxical stories about waiting and changing bring us to the true essence of what will enable you to be successful in an everchanging world.
I hope you ask yourselves: “Can you wait?” and at the same time, "Can you change?" Those individuals who strike the balance between these two competing qualities may well be what determines those who elevate themselves from good to great.
It is my belief that the world is looking for people who are determined, who can persevere, and who have grit. For those who can see the big picture and can delay gratification to accomplish what is necessary (much like those children who were sat in front of the marshmallow). I also believe that the world expects that you will be perceptive enough to change when is necessary, to be agile and and innovative. When faced with inevitable change do you batten down the hatches and hide behind tradition or do you embrace the change (much like the cautionary tale of the Kodak company).
Finally, more than anything, I believe the world is looking to embrace citizens that go the extra mile and care for other individuals in shocking ways, in ways that are kinder than is necessary.
I believe Rundle College has prepared you to wait when is necessary, to change when is needed and to be kind always.
I personally, can’t wait to see all the success you will have as you enter into our ever changing world.
I wish you all the best and congratulate you on your accomplishment today.