Wednesday, 05 September 2012

Don’t accept things as they are... envision yourselves a different future

A mhuintir na hOllscoile, a chéimithe, a dhaoine uaisle, ba mhaith liom fáilte pearsanta a chur romhaimh go léir chuig Ollscoil na hÉireann, Má Nuad inniu, ar ócáid speisialta agus ócáid shone i saol na hOllscoile, agus go mór mór i saol na gchéimithe. Ba mhaith loim ar dtús comhgairdeachas ó chroí a dhéanamh le na chéimithe go léir.

Colleagues, graduates, ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to welcome you again to the National University of Ireland Maynooth today, on a very special and happy occasion in the life of the University, and in particular in the lives of you our newest graduates, and I would like to begin by offering you my heartiest congratulations, on the very special achievement which this day represents. Life has some special days, and this is one of them, and I want you to resolve now to make the most of this day. A day as special as this one should bring two things: time to celebrate, and time to reflect.

Time to reflect

We are here today to celebrate your achievement, and those achievements are significant. You have come a long way since you began your university education. And now it is timely to stop and think about who you were when you entered this university and think about who you are now, how much you have learned and how much you have changed. Think also about how you came to be here. Think about your parents, your family and those closest to you - where they began their journey in life and where they are now. Think about how much they have done for you, and how much they have contributed to your success and realise that your achievements are built on theirs and the generations that preceded them - and ask yourself...what are you going to do now?

We are facing into a time of great challenge and considerable uncertainty. I certainly do not mean to diminish the difficulties you will face as you shape a future for yourselves, but you should know that those who went before you faced similar and at times even greater challenges. Nonetheless their efforts and yours have brought you to here and to a starting point where you can face your challenges and difficulties better equipped than any generation that preceded you.

So the question remains...what are you going to do? It is for you to decide. All I would ask is that you take time during this special day to reflect on how you have come to be here, and to ask yourself that question, what are you going to do now? Because you are educated people, you have knowledge and the capacity to make a difference in your workplace, your community, your society and your world. Your education has equipped you with knowledge, of facts and theory and precedent, so that you can make sense of and understand the world around you. Your education has developed your capacity to question, to argue, to think creatively and to imagine new things. Your education should foster a growing courage and confidence to speak out when you see something wrong or a better way of being and doing.

These are gifts. So please take these gifts that your lives and your education has given you, and put them at the service of the task of building a society we can be proud to live in. So in your day-to-day lives don’t accept things as they are, don’t even accept how you are told they should be, but envision for yourselves a different future, and take the first steps towards realising that vision. You may not feel that you can change the world, but you can change your world. This then, is what I ask you. When you leave here, at the end of one journey and the beginning of another, remain true to the journey that has led you to this day, remain true to those who have helped you to be here, and above all remain true to yourselves. Nothing would make us prouder, or make our work here in the university more worthwhile.

Time to celebrate

However, today is a day of celebration, and you can begin the work of changing the world tomorrow. While above all I want you to enjoy this special day, I do seriously want you to take the time to do two things. The first is to take some reflect and ask yourself that question “What am I going to do?”. The second is more personal... let others share I want you to leave this hall filled with the joy and pride in your achievements merit, and energy and confidence for a future what will exceed your expectations; it is good and necessary to dream, and some of them will be fulfilled.

I hope you have a wonderful graduation day, and I wish you all the very best for the future.

Go n-eirí an bothar libh, agus go raibh maith agaibh.