• Daphne Bramham

    Dr Daphne Bramham

    • Doctor of Letters

      Convocation address to the Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts
        June 3, 2013

      Thank you so much. It is an honour to share this evening with all the graduates who have worked so hard for their own degrees.

      And it is an extraordinary privilege to receive this honorary doctorate of letters. I am humbled by this and thought that right up until a few moments ago someone would tap me on the shoulder and say, oops we made a mistake and called the wrong Daphne Bramham.

      Like all of us, I stand here because of the contributions and sacrifices of others.

      There were my four grandparents who left four different countries to come to Canada in search of a better life for their children and their grandchildren.

      That generation and my parents’ generation sought to build a country where work is rewarded, where opinions can be expressed freely and openly.

      They built schools and hospitals and a health-care system that means having a sick child or a dying parent doesn’t financially ruin a family.

      I am indebted to the many women who helped clear a path for me, including five women who 84 years ago won the judgment by Britain’s Privy Council that Canadian women are indeed persons.

      I am also in thrall of my mother, who didn’t just tell me that lifelong learning is important, she showed me.

      She did her homework beside my brother and me at the dining room table. She completed her university degree one course at a time and graduated one semester before me. She went on to be a school principal. And I am delighted she is here this evening.

      We live in a world where close to 775 million adults are illiterate. All of them are poor. Two-thirds of them are women.

      122 million children and teens can’t read, write or do basic arithmetic. Nearly two-thirds of them are girls.

      And here, even in one of the most beautiful cities in the world in one of the richest countries in the world, too many children arrive at school each day hungry and without adequate clothes to wear.

      Last summer in Rwanda, I met a group of woman who had just finished a basic literacy and numeracy course. It had changed their lives.

      One of them no longer needs help putting the names and phone numbers of her friends in her cellphone.

      Another doesn’t have to ask for help reading street signs and is even helping her daughter with homework.

      Still another can now put the prices on the goods she sells in the market and ensure that she gets paid what she’s owed.

      But education gives us more than that. It also allows us to aspire and dream of something bigger or better or different.

      I visited MacDonald Elementary School recently; Children from Vancouver’s poorest neighbourhood told me about their dreams of becoming computer programmers and pilots and lawyers and teachers.

      Education allows all of us to dare to dream. And with help, those macdonald students will be able to attain those dreams.

      I say this to underscores just how privileged we are to be able to get an education.


      Today is a day to be proud of what you have accomplished so far. It’s a time to celebrate with friends and family. To thank them for supporting you and encouraging you.

      But tomorrow or the next day, we need to ask ourselves what now?

      We are the beneficiaries of others sacrifices. So what will we do with the challenges and the privilege that we have?

      For many of you – maybe even most of you – it will mean looking for work at a time when jobs aren’t easy to find.

      It may mean taking a job that isn’t perfect or doesn’t pay enough or pay at all. It will mean hard work in any case.

      These are especially difficult times for anyone who hopes to get a job and do the same work day after day until retirement.

      But who wants that anyway?

      It’s not why I choose journalism. And i’m guessing that doing the same thing day after day is not what most of you had in mind when you chose the performing arts or applied arts.

      We are creative people, who are bored by routine. We thrive on challenge and change. We are driven more by passion than common sense or – frankly -- the prospect of a huge salary.

      In that sense, we are perfectly suited to these uncertain times. Yes, these are challenging times, but there has rarely been a time in human history that wasn’t.

      Young, idealistic and energetic people have always been at the forefront of change. And so have artists, writers, actors and musicians. Through their writing, performances and passions, they have always lit the way to change – even at their own peril.

      I have faith that each of you will contribute to making this a better community, make this a better Canada and a better world.

      It may be something as simple as mentoring a student at one of the inner-city schools.

      It may be something bold and experimental that is an almighty failure – but a failure that provides you with the knowledge that will allow you to succeed the next time.

      So, congratulations to the 2013 graduating class, from this university that I can now call my own. I look forward to hearing about all of your achievements and your successes.

      Finally, thank you to Capilano University for bestowing this incredible honour on me.

      And I pledge to return to work with a renewed passion and sense of purpose.