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Blair Cardigan Smith Valedictory Address

Autumn Convocation 2008


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

When first asked to give the Valedictory address, I was, admittedly, overjoyed. Then I peed my pants a little. From what I understand, valedictory speeches are supposed to be inspiring. They are supposed to be epic. I am not epic. I’m not even profound.

So, I looked up old speeches for inspiration. What they all had in common was the communication, the sharing, of life lessons. The greatest life lessons these fellow students had learned in university. Though all grand, none of them were the same. Everyone takes their own greatest lesson from university. I could tell you what mine is, but chances are it won't agree with yours. And if you don't know what yours is, I urge you to find it.

The university experience is so different for everyone. But one thing I think we do all share is gratitude. Appreciation for professors and fellow classmates alike. Some people liken university to a community, but for me, the University of Winnipeg has really been more like a family. Because my peers have been such great touchstones over the years. They were comrades during the late nights and last minute assignments. They were my sanity…my foundation in moments of defeat. They shared sympathy and solace when we realized our understanding of some subject surpassed that of our parents. My classmates have truly been some of the best people I have known to date, and it is with them that I have forged the strongest friendships I have. For that, I am most definitely grateful.

And then there are professors. Words cannot express how indebted I am to you. Willingness to help, role models of enthusiasm, wells of wisdom. For me, it has been your readiness to open your doors that have opened the doors of my future. For that, I am grateful too.

I know with graduation comes fear of the unknown. I can’t tell you where your road will lead. But what I can say is that university is hard. Some people like to trivialize the importance of a university degree. But it is hard bloody work. And said simply, you’ve done it. You have graduated! If you take nothing else away from your experience in university, take with you the knowledge, the comfort, that you most definitely have the skills to succeed in whatever endeavor you choose to pursue. You're smart. You won't mess it up.

A wise friend once told me that every good speech should end with a quote. Mine happens to come from a band called Radiohead:

There are barn doors
And there are revolving doors
Doors on the rudders of big ships
And there are revolving doors
There are doors that open by themselves
There are sliding doors
And there are secret doors
There are doors that lock
And doors that don't
There are doors that let you in

- Excerpt from Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors by Radiohead, 2001.

Congratulations fellow graduates and good luck finding whatever door will let you in.