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Honorary Address - Mohinder Singh Dhillon

Spring Convocation 2008


Mohinder Singh Dhillon

Honourable President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Axworthy, Chancellor Riley, Members of the Faculty, Honored guests, and graduates.

It is indeed an honour to receive a Doctor of Laws degree from the prestigious University of Winnipeg, and am I thankful for the chance to address the new graduates today.

It’s a remarkable coincidence that exactly 41 years ago today June 1st 1967, I came from London, England to Winnipeg, my new home. On that day I never imagined that I would stand here one day to receive such a great honour as this. I had dreams and ambitions, and I was determined to achieve them. But when I arrived 1967, Winnipeg was a very different place. I was only the fourth Sikh in the entire city to wear a turban. As you may imagine this brought certain challenges. Life would have been easier had I compromised this symbol of my religious and cultural identity. But I would not compromise my values for anyone or anything. Neither should you. As you enter your next stage in life, you will face many choices, and you may be asked to compromise your values for short-term gains. My advice to you is to stay true to your values. If it costs you in the short term, it will pay rich dividends in the long run. You will earn respect. Respect is priceless: you cannot inherit it, buy it, or borrow it. You must earn it yourself.

I remember those first few years in Winnipeg like it was yesterday. I had great friends and peers at work, but the East Indian community here was very small. Something was missing. I missed being part of a larger community. We had no temple or Gurudwara. So we came together, we worked hard, and we built one. Our community grew stronger, and each year I saw new opportunities to serve and strengthen the community. I volunteered for many boards and organizations, locally and nationally, for various causes. This often meant that I spent a lot of time away from home. My community service would have been impossible without the understanding and support of Jasmer, my wife of 51 years. I also thank my children for their understanding for the time I gave to community service.

Most recently I have had the great pleasure of being a member of the National Advisory Committee of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights which is to be built right here in our own city. This was the dream of the late Dr. Izzy Asper. Thanks to the hard work of many – especially his daughter Gail Asper – this dream will come true.

 Your dreams will also come true if you are determined to work hard. You’ve already earned your degree from a first-class University, and now you have the opportunity to make all the alumni proud. Set your goals high, and do your best in all parts of your life. Live and work like nobody has done before you. Do everything in such a way that you are always proud to say, “This is my work. I did this.”

When I left home to go to college, my grandmother gave me a valuable piece of advice. She said, “Suffer now and enjoy later or enjoy now and suffer later. This is your choice.” This advice worked for me, and in today’s world of challenges, I think it will work for you too. You are the future of our city, our province, and our country. Each one of you are the ambassadors of Canada on the international scene. Act with dignity, courage and conviction, and keep the good name of our country. Give generously of your time and your energy to your nation and to your community. Give of yourself, and make your mark.

Margaret Mead wrote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

You are those thoughtful, committed citizens, and you can change the world. I have the highest hopes for all that you will accomplish. Congratulations!