Occasional Address at Victoria University

G151014VUVIP-PC001Having previously delivered an Occasional Address at a University Graduation didn’t for a second take away the humbling impact and honor of being invited to deliver another, this time, for Victoria University.

I set about writing a speech, a speech which was honest, transparent and authentic which could be delivered in ten (10) minutes, or less – sounds simple right?


October 14, 2015 arrived and I was excited to be apart of the celebration that is graduation. I delivered the address that afternoon to more than 800 people gathered at the Flemington racecourse.

So what did I say? What words of encouragement, insight and opportunity was gifted to the audience?

In response to many requests, the speech is below. I hope for those who do read it, will appreciate the honesty and hope that it offers.


Victoria University Graduation Ceremony

Occasional Address, Craig Dent

14 October 2015, at Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne

Deputy Chancellor, Associate Professor Rufus Black

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter Dawkins, Victoria University Staff, Graduands, Families and Friends

Thank you for your invitation to provide the occasional address. I am deeply honoured to have been invited to give the address 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 congratulations to the graduands, but I also wanted to acknowledge the families and friends who have supported the graduands, having shared in their challenges, shared in their pressures and now sharing in their success.

I am very aware that I stand between you and your awards, so in the short amount of time I have, I’d like to share a story that I hope will be forever imprinted in your memory.

I hope that my words last somewhat longer than an ice cube sitting on top of a hot barbecue on a typical Melbourne summers day.

I would like to share with you a short story, a short story that is a real story, a story that I am proud to share with you today and a story that I hope in times of challenge, in times of self doubt or indeed absolute unmitigated disaster that you will remember.

This is a story of hope; self-created opportunity, riddled with struggle, failure and of joyful achievement.

It is the story of someone I know, someone who did not go to university straight from secondary school such was their dislike for education and absence of self-belief.

They came from what would now be described as a broken family.

They were a person who was extraordinarily shy and introverted, a person who knew what bullying was, having been subject to it, a person who knew what isolation felt like, having lived with it, a person who lacked confidence.

Nothing came easy to this person, all that they have wanted, all that they have achieved has been realised through focus, determination, resilience and hard work.

You see, life can be cruel and unpredictable. It inevitability takes, often gives and will when you least expect it present opportunities, opportunities like the one you have taken, the opportunity to become part of this University, the University of opportunity, Victoria University.

Whilst the person I am talking about had every reason and opportunity to become or achieve very little in their life, what they chose to do was to exist and be the best they could be.

They decided to live a purposeful life, a life that they could be proud of, and a life that their children can be proud of.

They developed a list of things they wanted to achieve; they were 15 years of age when they developed the list.

They were determined to break the generational cycle and be the first to go to University, the first to have a successful professional career.

They were first to seek out and understand where they had come from, the first to immerse themselves in the stories of their ancestors, all so they could be best they could be through truly understanding the stories of those who had walked before them.

If we jump forward some 32 years later, I can tell you that they have achieved everything that they had on that list and indeed everything that they have set their mind to since.

Despite their success, the thing that they are proudest of is the example that they have set for their children and many others who have become to know them.

The person to whom I have been referring, our story subject, is today described as someone who is widely recognised for their leadership across community, corporate and government organisations.

They have devoted their life to being the best they can be and have an insatiable appetite for Leadership, Strategy and Higher Education.

They hold amongst other qualifications, a Masters in Business Administration, [MBA].

You all know that you don’t judge a book by its cover, right?

You will all have your own challenges, you will all have difficult decisions to make and opportunities to embrace.

Martin Luther King Jr said “There is no gain without struggle.”

The subject of our story wouldn’t suggest for a second that they provide you with the key to a successful career, because they themselves don’t regard their career journey as one they would recommend.

After all, their story, this story, has been many things but it’s never been conventional, it’s never been typical, it’s not been for the faint hearted, nor frankly, would our subject have it any other way.

What humbles the subject of this story today, more than anything else, is when they are asked for advice.

For all the reasons I have shared throughout my address, despite their success, they are today still not sure that they ought to be providing advice on career’s, however, they are not on this Universities payroll, so without fear or favor, here is their advice to you…

At the wise and ripened age of 46 years, 10 months and 10 days, here are the 5 things that our subject has learnt that apply equally to business as they do to anyone wanting a successful career and to be more than they ever thought they could be:

Stay with me, there’s only 5 and almost all have been written to 140 characters so you can tweet with ease [and you can follow me on twitter @cdent:

  • Be humble in all that you do, let others speak of your character, performance & contributions Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, always
  • Dream big & regularly, challenge what is wrong, develop a strategy, plan carefully & act with good intent, share your knowledge & experiences often
  • Don’t live anyone else’s life, that’s taken, live yours, do what makes you truly happy & work hard, with focus & passion. Never accept “No” “I can’t” or “it’s too hard”
  • Continuously educate yourselves & those around you, don’t wait too long before you return to VU to gain more knowledge
  • When you see an opportunity, act fast, don’t waste it, when they come (& they will) be ready to grab it & make the most of it

In closing, our story subject would have wanted me to thank you. But before I do, for those who have not yet consulted the oracle of the universe, otherwise known as Google, our story subject is of course me.

Albeit a brief insight, this is my story, a story that has been enabled by Higher Education, an evolving purpose, hard work and focus.

Please accept my sincere thanks for allowing me the privilege of being a part of your very special day, and sharing a little of my story to help you along the way.

As Mark Twain once said: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore, Dream, Discover”

Thank you

Categories: Education, Leadership

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