Occasional Address’s at University Graduations also known as the Guest Speech are considered a highlight at the Graduation. Whilst nothing for the graduates can exceed receiving the degrees that they have worked tirelessly for, the occasional address is intended to inspire and reflect on the challenges, which lay ahead for the Graduates.
On March 20, 2013 I delivered the Occasional Address at Latrobe University’s graduation ceremony for the Faculty of Business, Economics and Law. I was and remain humbled by the invitation, why would the University invite me to deliver the address? I know that they weren’t short on other people to invite; most people would jump at the opportunity to deliver an Occasional Address, as I did.
In any event, I set about writing a speech, which could be delivered in ten (10) minutes, or less, completing the speech weeks before the event it was provided to the university, my preparation was complete. The day arrived and I was excited by the opportunity, frankly, I couldn’t wait to get to the university.
I delivered the address that afternoon to 800 people gathered at Latrobe University, it was a warm Melbourne afternoon, arriving early as required so that I could be walked through the procedural aspects of the ceremony, be robed according to my highest academic achievement and to talk with the Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Executive Dean, Members of the University Council and Academic Staff.
Each and everyone were so very warm and welcoming. I have gotten to know many of the academic staff particularly those from the Faculty of Business, Economics and Law. They are an incredibly impressive, inspirational group who I respect immensely.
The experience had me reflecting on my graduation, the opportunities which further education has provided, the joy, rejuvenated, challenge and insight which it has given me, this was an opportunity to give a little back.
The acknowledgement I felt by virtue of the invitation let alone the actual delivery of the speech I wont deny was wonderful, I couldn’t help think, here is another milestone for my family to be proud of, after all they provided me with the foundation from which I could dream, learn and act, their warmth in times of challenge strengthening my resilience and for their wisdom, which has taught me how to be true to myself and those around me.
So what did I say? What words of encouragement, insight and opportunity was gifted to the audience on March 20, 2013?
Extracts of the speech are below for those who would like to read it, in summary, I spoke of three (3) topics: firstly – my learning’s and reflections from a life and career which has been challenging but incredibly rewarding; secondly – the gift of others perspectives and perceptions; and finally Leadership and your responsibilities towards others.
Finally, to my family who could not be in attendance physically, you were very much right there on stage with me, each word, each breath, each moment was in tribute to you.
Occasional Address, Graduation Ceremony
Faculty of Business, Economics and Law
La Trobe University
20 March 2013, Melbourne Campus
Adrienne Clarke AC, Chancellor, Professor Nugent, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Drake, Executive Dean, members of the University Council, Academic Staff, Graduands, Family and Friends.
Thank you for your invitation to provide the occasional address. I am deeply honored to have been invited to give the Address here today.
I’d like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of this land on which we gather today, the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nation and pay my respects to their elders, past and present and extend that respect to other aboriginal people present today.
This is an important and happy occasion and I offer my personal congratulations to the graduands, as well as their families and friends who have supported and shared in their struggles, their stresses and their successes.
I would like to talk with you about three (3) topics briefly: firstly – my learning’s and reflections from a life and career which has been challenging but incredibly rewarding; secondly – the gift of others perspectives and perceptions; and finally Leadership and your responsibilities towards others.
The gift of others perspectives and perceptions
After several roles and continued success, I was indeed fortunate to have found myself working with Paul – a person who challenged and inspired me to reconsider my views of education, and a person who convinced me of the reality that I would need qualifications in order to succeed further in my career…. The time to confront and deal with my unfinished business had indeed arrived.
It was through Paul’s support, encouragement, and leadership that I was inspired to take action with the fundamental support of my family.
In 2003, at the age of 35 I was accepted into a Masters of Business Administration Program, which I completed in late 2007, graduating in 2008.
Paul’s influence extended far beyond obtaining a Masters; in fact his leadership influenced me so greatly that my very purpose for undertaking the Masters changed. It changed from being a qualification to aid further advancement, to being a learning experience, which fundamentally challenged my views, beliefs and values. I was rejuvenated through learning, it challenged how I thought and behaved.
Each of you has, or will have, a Paul come along during your journey. I encourage each of you to embrace the influence that people like Paul bring to one’s life.
Each of you have worked incredibly hard to reach this proud and well-deserved milestone. Like me, many of you will find in the months to come that you will miss the challenge and rejuvenation that learning provides, for others this yearning will re-appear in years to come. I say to all of you, listen to the yearning and further your knowledge.
Learning is not something you can or ought to consider “complete”. By attending an institution such as Latrobe you have a great opportunity to share your knowledge and experiences with as many people as possible, freely and honestly. You have an opportunity to encourage others to take up the life-changing journey of education, as Paul did for me. The Pauls’ that come along during your journey may come and go, seek them out and encourage them to push you.
Leadership and Responsibility
Today I spend my time leading a remarkable group of people across the State of Victoria who manage the financial and legal affairs of this State’s most vulnerable people, in addition to the challenge of managing deceased estates, the provision of Wills, Trusts and Enduring Powers of Attorney along with the organisation’s philanthropic activities. A unique, some might say odd role in that it straddles the Corporate, Government and Community sectors and interacts with people at different stages of life.
I am also a Director and Board Member of Variety Victoria – the Children’s Charity, an organisation which supports children growing up with disability, serious illness or disadvantage, by working with individual families and organisations to deliver programs that help children with special needs to live, laugh and learn.
I mention this because as your journey starts, I ask that you build in time for community; get involved in your community in a way that makes another person’s world better, it is through community engagement and activity that your professional career and purpose will be reinvigorated, refreshed and the clarity of purpose will become clearer.
Leadership is an honor, it can be demanding, immensely rewarding, at times controversial, but always an honor.
For those of you who will occupy a leadership role, I would like to give you the benefit of my failures and of my successes and if you remember nothing else from my speech today, that you remember these five (5) key learning’s:
- Be humble in all that you do, let others speak of your character, performance and contributions
- Dream big and dream regularly, challenge what is wrong and act with good intent to make things better, share your knowledge and experiences often
- Don’t live anyone else’s life, that’s taken, live yours, do what makes you truly happy
- Don’t wait too long before you return to gain more knowledge, maintain your connections with this terrific institution and community
- Don’t waste opportunities, when they come (and they will, sometimes unexpectedly), be ready to grab them, make the most of them, be proud, but humble
In closing I would like to leave you with my view of leadership in the hope that it will ring in your ears long after the excitement of today has faded.
“Through your influence, vision, ethics and authenticity you create a better reality for your family, community and organisation, where those around you and those who follow you are inspired to dream, learn and act”
If you can achieve this in your life, not only will you be a leader, you will have honored your family, this great university and most importantly, yourself.
I would like to thank my family for their support and love, which has provided me with the foundation from which I could dream, learn and act, their warmth in times of challenge strengthening my resilience and for their wisdom, which has taught me simply how to be me.
Finally, thank you for allowing me the privilege of being a part of your very special day, congratulations to each of you, your families and friends and to the staff at La Trobe.