Principal Segal Awarded Honorary Doctorate of Laws at Queen’s University

On June 4th our Principal, Hugh Segal, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws at Queen’s University.

Below is his speech to graduates, family and faculty.

Mr. Chancellor, Principal Wolfe, graduates here today to receive your hard-earned degrees, parents and friends, husbands, wives, grandparents and family, all of you who helped make this day possible for your loved one – good morning!

And, to those of you receiving your well-earned parchment, my special congratulations. What we celebrate today is not only the years of hard work and study and the honour you deserve for your success.

We also celebrate what your success today means for your future tomorrow. I hope that your futures will be devoted to building a stronger society, socially and economically, an economy more efficient, compassionate and inclusive and an environment more resilient and responsible than what you have inherited. And above all, to find a rewarding and fulfilling place for yourself in that important work.

If you think of your life as a house, with a foundation built with family in the early years and the systems and architecture shaped by your own hard work, determination and individual sense of purpose over time, today is a day when the foundation and first floor are finished. But there is much more to be done – the heating, plumbing, decoration, windows, landscaping and yes, there are more houses to be built on either side of your own. More houses create a street and then a neighborhood; these become communities and provinces and countries and eventually the entire world is connected. The arts, the humanities, the sciences, the professions, creativity and civility, these all define the key skills that build the foundational architecture of a humane and productive society.

There are many differing skills and experiences necessary to construct something well. And while the world we share is awash in cynicism, pessimism, cruelty and inhumanity, I point out respectfully that pessimism never strengthened anything and cynicism never built anything of value to anyone.

If you had unpleasant and frustrating days during your years of study, and who hasn’t, you are here today in part because hope and optimism spurred you on along with the support of your friends, the inspiration of professors and the love of those who are always in your corner.

Let me suggest that today’s success should not only put you in the Queen’s corner for a lifetime, but that the tools you acquired through your own hard work at this amazing institution gives you the unique ability to now be the one in the many corners of those who need encouragement, leadership, inspiration and insight. No society is stronger than the weakest and most vulnerable among us; figuring out how to help and lift up those in need, is one of the qualities of the pluralist democracy we share.

Regardless of race, creed, geography or culture, every human being with whom we share our country and world wants two core freedoms for herself or himself, their families and friends – freedom from fear and freedom from want. Understanding the core themes of western civilization through the study of classics, securing the skills and knowledge essential to assist with the inevitability of aging, engaging in the nuances of healthcare and its policy, protocols and administration, understanding and caring about how we manage the challenges of leadership, coherence, freedom, social justice and dissent, all intrinsic to the politics that drive our communities, countries and our world – these have never mattered more.

We need your help; your country and our world will benefit from your engagement, insight and courage. I am reminded of Mr. Churchill’s admonition: “You make a living by what you do: you make a life by what you give.”

Enjoy and celebrate today; revel in your hard work and achievement; and tomorrow, embrace who you are and what you care about. And whether the next year is about more education, working with others or working for yourself, volunteering with others, or traveling and exploring the world, this coming year is your runway to becoming airborne on your own terms and on the flight path you choose.

For those who, like me, have more past than future, we cannot wait to see each of you in-flight and at a height and velocity that makes this old world a better place!
Today and tonight, celebrate and enjoy! Tomorrow – it is your turn to build, change, inspire and lead a world that needs every single one of you!

Thank you all very much.