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Valedictory Address - Elizabeth Esselmont

Autumn Convocation 2007


Elizabeth Esselmont, B.Sc.
Oct. 21, 2007
Eighty-fifth University of Winnipeg Convocation

Madam Minister, Mr. Chancellor, Mr. President, distinguished guests, fellow graduates, ladies and gentlemen…

I appreciate having this opportunity to speak on behalf of a very diverse group of graduates.  Today is the day that we’ve all been waiting for as we spent long hours studying for exams, pondering over term papers, and trying to figuring out what exactly happened during that lab.  We have reason to celebrate today.  We are celebrating the end of a chapter in our lives and the beginning of an exciting new part of the journey. 

As we celebrate our achievements today, let us remember to be thankful for the circumstances, institutions, and people that have helped us to achieve. First, let me extend, on behalf of all graduates, our thanks for the opportunities we have had here at the University of Winnipeg to learn and grow. In a world that still suffers too much from war, poverty, and suppression we must remember that it is an empowering privilege to be able to pursue higher education. Realizing this privilege to its full potential requires the hard work of the students and the assistance of the staff. I want to thank each one of the professors and support staff that has shared with us their expertise and treated us with respect while helping us to explore new ways of thinking.

Thank you also to my fellow students. We have forged alliances, some temporary, and others of longer duration, to help us get through such diverse challenges as labs, term papers, exams, and life.

No one said it would be easy, and it hasn’t been, but in the end it is good. We have done the best with the time and talents we had, to work toward goals we believe in. What better way could one use their time?  It has been said, there is a danger, not in hard work, but rather in not having a goal to work hard for. Goals focus us and help us cultivate the hope that we will make a positive difference in our own lives and in the lives of others.

How we define “a positive difference” began with the values that were instilled in us by our families, friends and mentors. Many of them are with us here today, even as they have been with us over the past many years. I would like to thank my own family for encouraging me every step of the way and for helping me get through the stressful times.  I couldn’t have done it without your patience and your guidance.  Fellow graduates, I encourage you to also take a moment sometime today to acknowledge the people who have helped you get to this point.

Undergraduate education is about exploration, trying new things, acquiring the knowledge to tackle the challenges that we face, learning from our mistakes and having fun while doing it. Through our undergraduate education our minds have been challenged and trained to think more deeply and more abstractly.  Now we need to do something about it!  Some of us are pursuing graduate studies while others are ready to enter the working world.  In these endeavors we have a responsibility to demonstrate that our education has made a difference and to use our education to work towards a better future.

What will the future look like? It is being created right now in boardrooms and labs around the world. It is being dreamed of in the minds of young people like ourselves. How will there be a more equitable distribution of the world’s wealth?  How will there be more sustainable interactions with the environment? How will the prevalence of diseases such as cancer and diabetes be reduced? There are solutions. We just have to be diligent and dedicated to finding them. Remember it is not that long ago slavery existed and antibiotics seemed like an impossible dream.  Each generation has the challenge and the responsibility of changing its dreams into reality. We are up to that challenge.

Let us not forget that the measure of our lives will also be made in our daily interactions with our friends and families. Let us treat each other with the respect and love that will provide stability in our families and by extension in our society. We cannot expect to do better on a large scale than we can truly accomplish on this small scale. Let us match the development of our minds with the development of our hearts and spirits. To each of us that is a challenge and to each of us that is an opportunity.

Each generation is the future and forms the future. It is 2007, we are that generation and our time is now. Let us move forward with energy and hope. Let us make our families and our university proud of us and, most importantly, may they notice that life becomes better because of us, and because of that which they have invested in us. Congratulations Class of 2007!  It’s time to celebrate!!!