Paul Dangerfield

    • "First Steps Forward"

      Capilano University  
      Convocation 2017

      Good morning. On behalf of the Board of Governors and everyone at Capilano University, I extend a warm welcome to you all. Thank you for being here today, to witness our ceremony of convocation and the conferring of credentials upon our graduands.

      These are the first convocation ceremonies I have presided over as president and vice chancellor of Capilano University.  I am profoundly humbled and proud to be standing here, before you all, recognizing your achievements, knowing that you will go on to see and do things beyond what I can imagine in your lifetimes.

      We often refer to life as a journey, a road to travel, a mountain to climb. I think though that in Canada, we understand life best as a river of changing temperaments. Whether it is calm or churning, gentle or mighty, adversarial or accelerating, sustaining or exhausting, the river tests and shapes our resilience. And there you are, in your canoe, your kayak, or your inflatable rubber tire learning, always learning from every experience it presents to you.

      The river is not something you take on unawares. Preparedness is essential. You know this, because that is how you came to be at Capilano University. You came here to pursue the knowledge and skills that are the foundation of readiness. And you have done that.

      You are more capable than you know. I assure you this is true, because I have seen the evidence first hand. Visiting classrooms, meeting students, sharing in what you have created here, I have seen in you at every turn the leadership, the creativity and the abilities this world needs. And my conclusion is this world needs more you. To this end, I encourage you to unite your education, your passions and your curiousity with what you care most about.

      "Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little," wrote the 18th Century Irish statesman Edmund Burke. Everyone has a role to play, gifts to bring. I encourage you to find your place and take up your part in the work to make a better world.

      You are graduating in a time of great contradictions: the scales of hope and uncertainty seem unbalanced, precarious even.  You may be daunted by this, but do not be discouraged. There will be times when you doubt yourself, looking at a situation where you are needed and thinking it is beyond what you can take on. You might want to walk away. For myself, a little further down the river than you, I’ve learned how important it is to find the calm in the eye of the storm, where you can look around, and think things through.

      I was a junior officer based in Laar, Germany in November of 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down. Our brigade looked after an area along the West German/Czechoslovakian border where there was also a wall lined with barbed wire and guard posts. As Canadians, we were there as peacekeepers. As the days went by, we realized a sea change was taking place right before our eyes. There were people coming across the border in plain view. To this day, I can see them, in my mind’s eye, doing what we take for granted in the West, walking to freedom on the other side. Only a short while before, such an act in broad daylight would not have been possible without a great and terrible risk. These peaceful crossings were a humbling and awe-inspiring thing to witness. I would not diminish the role of the world community and its leaders at this time in history, but it was the resilience of people, taking those first steps forward across the border into freedom, yes, but also into uncertainty, that turned the tide.

      I share this with you to emphasize that wherever your sphere of influence lies, great or small, may you have the courage to step forward, know your own convictions and take a stand for what is right. Anything you do to build community, harmony and justice will make the world a better place.

      Your graduation today is not the end of your learning, any more than a safe harbor on a warm day is the river’s end. Ahead of you in your career are mentors and supporters, some you may already know, others you have yet to meet. Every step of the way there will be this one person who demonstrates that combination of thought and action that is just right for the situation at hand. Be sure to recognize them, they won’t all have the title of leader or teacher on their CV. Your mentors will be people of uncommon wisdom, who – having lived mindfully – are willing to share what they have learned with others.

      The river of your life will not rest for long. Together, we pause to celebrate and then we carry on. And so, on this the fifth day of the month of June, in the year 2017, I raise my hands to commend your achievements and your potential.

      O Siem. Thank you. Go well.