Tuesday 24 April 2007
Graduation Ceremony Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, distinguished guests, graduates and your friends and family Good Afternoon. It is a pleasure for me to participate in this graduation ceremony which marks an extraordinary transition in your lives.
When I first received this invitation I recalled a letter I received some years ago from a group of university graduates, They were owning up to some misdemeanour in the city 35 years before – the had pinched a street sign – now they wanted to present me with a cheque as a form of redemption. Subsequently, there was a very formal handing over ceremony at Warners one Friday night. We agreed that the price of the sign would be one pint of guinness. They gave the city a guinness and I drank it.
I just wanted to let you know that at Council we are very keen on this sort of thing and if anybody has a conscience in later years please let us know. Not that I believe any member in the Humanities Faculty would be involved in anything nefarious, but you can pass this on to your peers doing law and engineering. Graduates of this university have brought learning creativity and knowledge to every field of life both locally and globally.
You walk today in the proud tradition of previous graduates , Sir Apirana Ngata, Helen Connan and Sir Ernest Rutherford. I am proud to say that my two sons have been part of this tradition. The word university comes from the Latin meaning universe. A university must be open to ideas from all over the world, it must be global. So must a city think globally if is to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world.
A reflection of the global nature of Canterbury University will be the number of overseas students who are graduating today. You are part of the global market place for graduates, research and talent. Many of you will soon be off on your OE. Sir Ernest Rutherford is the supreme example of the graduate who went overseas and never came back. It is my vision to make sure that Christchurch is a city our graduates want to return to.
I would like to issue a challenge to you, and your friends and family members here today.I have never seen a tertiary education as an end in itself. I have always seen it as a means. When I became an accountant I was not trained to have the skills which I use everyday. They came post formal training. The key issue is that the world requires us to think much more sideways now than we have ever done before.
My observation is that an issue is now seldom solved by one discipline alone. I'm dealing with an issue at the moment, not too far from this building, and it involves the multiple disciplines of engineering, architecture, urban design, law and property rights. You will note that the lawyers have managed to have two chews on the issue. If they can make it a bit more complicated they may even be able to draw out the matter long enough to make even more money out of the exercise!!
None of the issues I must confront on this matter are simple. They require me to address the matter using skills which I was not taught at a tertiary institution, and I will have to use disciplines I was not taught to work with. I needed to approach the problems we are facing with a level of curiosity which meant I didn’t leap to conclusions too early in the process.
So I want to now think about the word, curiosity. Albert Einstein said "It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education." Eleanor Roosevelt said about the same topic :"I could not, at any age, be content to take my place by the fireside and simply look on. Life was meant to be lived. Curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life".
The world now requires us to have a sense of curiosity like we've never had before. The world my father was born into and the world he died in was pretty predictable, aside from 6 years serving in a World War. The world I was born into and the world I will die in, with luck some time into the future, will be a very different one. My children will face even greater challenges.
I want to challenge you to not sit back and say "I've got my degree that's my education". I would say that you have shown that you can think within the box of conformity which society has set for you. Now the world expects you to push the sides of that conformity box aside. To stare at the world and its issues through curious eyes and challenge and look for new ways of solving the matters in front of you.
I once worked with a bloke who had had a chequered career. He had been kicked out of school at 13 and had had no formal education. When we addressed an issue I would often say to him " you can't do that" as we thought through a matter. He would ask "why?". I often had an answer, but frequently didn't, as he was not constrained by the parameters which had been trained into me by my formal education. His natural sense of curiosity meant that he often saw solutions which were there but my training stopped me getting to these points.
I learnt from this person, and I continue to learn from him, to see beyond my formal education and to search for solutions which are found when I tap into my natural seed bed of curiosity.Some of the hardest questions asked of me as Mayor are often asked as I address classes of small children. Their curious questions are often show stoppers. They often ask why and they stop me in my tracks. The only sensible answer is “that’s a good question”, and then change the subject.
So my challenge to you all is to not be cynical about the world and its challenges but to be curious. Retain a child like simplicity to life. Ask the simple questions and remain curious. Go out into the world and play your part in making this a better planet.I wish you well for the future and thank the university for asking me to speak to you today.
As we leave here today challenge for us all to carry in our hearts and minds is:Manaaki Whenua, Manaaki Tangata, Haere whakamua.For this planet to survive go out into the world and care for the land, care for the people and I would add go forward maintaining your sense of curiosity. Thank you.