Graduation day advice: What the world needs now from Mac grads

McMaster’s spring 2021 honorary degree recipients are nine of the best and brightest in their respective fields. As part of convocation week, their remarks provide advice for today’s graduates and important lessons they have learned throughout their careers.

Read on to take in key nuggets of wisdom for the graduating class of 2021, from this year’s honorary degree recipients.

1. Call out injustice and tap into ‘potentia


“I feel that human caring is not a form of behaviour, a feeling or a state. It is an ontology, a sacred science, a way of living and a way of contributing, impacting and transforming health care.”

-Marilyn Ray, leader in nursing and person-centred care



“I ask of you to not be silent when there is injustice, to use your privilege and bring attention to those who are marginalized. Step aside for someone who otherwise would not be acknowledged. We have achieved diversity through legislation and laws, however inclusivity will require nurturing from each one of us.”

-Inspector Baltej Singh Dhillon (ret.), Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer and a champion for equity and inclusion


“Our world is prime for dramatic change. Two words come to mind when I think of this, both are used often by an Ojibwe elder friend, and they are potentia and bimaaduziwin. Potentia, the latin word meaning the interesting combination of power, ability and influence and bimaaduziwin, the Ojibwe word for good life. How will you, how will society wield potential to ensure bimaaduziwin? How will we define bimaaduziwin? Will we define it narrowly to serve the interests of the few or ensure it is experienced in every corner of the world?”

-Robert Watts, distinguished public servant, negotiator and facilitator



2. Reflect on your resilience and keep pushing


“The class of 2021 has experienced more change than any other graduating class in modern history. When you started your education, the world was already experiencing rapid technological and social change. But with an outbreak of a global pandemic, the pace has dramatically accelerated. During this time, the adjustments you made to your personal and academic lives has been significant. […] You are well-positioned to take on new challenges. Your formal education at McMaster combined with your experience during the pandemic make you strong, resilient and ready to take on the future.”

-Karen Maidment, leader and trailblazer in Canadian finance

“You will be faced with many challenges that will impede from reaching your goals. Find a way around and reach out to others who will help you. Look for those mentors who will bring the best out of you and allow you to shine.”

Anne Innis Dagg, scientist, author and advocate



3. Make gratitude part of your day


“Tiótkon taestenonhwerá:ton tahnon sahkwísron aesate’nién:ten’ aesatá:ti’ ne Kanien’kehá:ha” – always give thanks and always try and speak the language.

Ima Johnson Tehahkhwa, *posthumous degree recipient, Faithkeeper, Mohawk language teacher and curriculum developer



4. Embrace uncertainty


“When I graduated from McMaster University, I could have never predicted the route my life would take. But in that uncertainty, there is beauty and possibility to achieve great things, change the world, be happy. […]  I’m here to tell you that you should be an explorer. That you should find your own path, be your own guide.”

Julie Angus, molecular biologist, adventurer, writer and filmmaker


“As you accelerate towards your future, you will find yourself in two scenarios: leveraging what you know and exploring new horizons. Exploration is a mindset of discovery. Discovery is driven by problem solving. Exploration expanded on your education. It is choosing the path that is fraught with challenges and unknown. Courage is necessary.”

-Faizel Lakhani, leading innovator and entrepreneur


5. Never stop learning


“This degree is just the first step in a long journey, ahead of listening and reading and writing and thinking, which are all points on a compass that lead to to fulfilment.”

Anne Innis Dagg, scientist, author and advocate



“I encourage you to think beyond your current status quo and pursue ideas or technologies that could revolutionize and advance our civilization or simply provide happiness and prosperity for everyone.”

-Joseph Liburdi, founder, Liburdi Engineering Limited



Learn more about the achievements of this year’s honorary degree recipients here. 

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