Friday, June 08, 2007

Nipissing University Convocation, June 8, 2007

Today's afternoon convocation at NU included most of our history graduates. Of course it was hot and humid in the hall, even though snow had fallen and briefly stuck on the ground two days earlier. Nevertheless, there were some really nice moments, on top of the general joy surrounding graduation.

The speakers -- the honorary doctor and the valedictorian -- were exceptional. The Hon. Jean Jacques Blais, a former MP for this riding who has spent his last decade or so in practical democracy promotion, made an eloquent case for good governance making all the difference between one country and the next -- say, Russia and Canada, two places with sparse populations owning huge areas filled with natural resources. And then he went on to insist that honest devotion to the public good is the core of good governance. His speech made me very happy -- at a time when much of the world is being torn to shreds by the greedy, the selfish, and the bloodthirsty, that there is a place where people who believe in such sane values not only exist, but have influence. And I live there! It means a great deal to me that Dr. Blais, a product of the Nipissing District, said what he said; it almost means more that the NU community chose to award him a D.Litt. honoris causa for manifesting those values.

Tomorrow, the same honorary degrees will be awarded to Maher Arar and his spouse Dr. Monia Mazigh at another convocation. 'Nuff said.

The valedictorian for the convocation today was Jennifer Evans, who gave a convincing performance of the student who went to university -- a small and rather obscure one -- and found exactly what she wanted and needed, not only the opportunity to learn, but the opportunity to make the most valuable kind of human connections. My colleagues who have had her in their courses aver that she is exactly the way she appeared today. It's nice to know that your university can sometimes do exactly what it aspires to do.

On a more personal note, I was touched by how many students asked about my health -- it's a great deal improved, thanks -- and I left the university feeling even better than I did when I came.

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