Chairman and Members of the Board of Directors of the Charles Telfair Institute. Executive Director Professor Charoux and members of the Management Committee, distinguished guests, proud parents, members of the staff. And most importantly dear graduating class of 2013 : CONGRATULATIONS. Please take a few moments to give yourself a round of applause.
I have to start by telling you how honoured I am by this invitation. I am grateful to be able to share part of the joy, hope and solemnity of this seminal moment for 189 fine young women and men graduating today.
I too think of myself as a young person. Who doesn’t have enough grey hair, yet, to dare give advice or impart any kind of wisdom. So I have had to do some research. I actually took this task at heart right from the moment when I got the call from Professor Charoux almost a month ago. I took it as seriously as you did for your assignments…So late last night I started thinking hard about what to say !
The first piece of information I stumbled upon is a name. What I am doing right now, is delivering a COMMENCEMENT SPEECH. I didn’t know the term. It’s a very interesting one. Very fitting for the occasion. C’est un commencement. It’s the beginning of something new. But I cannot help asking myself what this « something new » really is. Do you know what it is ?
There’s probably a fair chance that you don’t. You see, life is full of twists and turns. Each more unpredictable than the other. It is this world of uncertainty that you are getting ready to step in as from today. As from this day, you will start learning the first harsh lesson. A degree or diploma ; despite all the hard work you put in obtaining it…is nothing but a piece of paper.
Thus, not all of the 39 students that are to graduate in Human Resource will make a career in the field. Just as not all the 98 students obtaining a diploma in management will stay in this line of activity.
In the same vein, some of the 25 students in graphic design may…well, in fact NO. Please stay in the field, we are very much in need of good graphic designers in the Press right now.
BUT let me get back to the element of uncertainty. This room is probably filled with people who set out to do one thing and ended up doing another.
At 5 : I wanted to be an astronaut. At 10 : a pilot. At 14 : an economist, then I realised I hated Maths and went for Law. At University, I started loathing Corporate Law and loving Political Science. So I finally settled for the latter. Yet, at the end of my studies, I still didn’t have a clear answer to THE question. What will I do ?
I was bound to not have an answer. Simply because I was asking the wrong question ! Maybe you’re having the same approach right now. So beware ! What matters is not what you do. But WHO YOU ARE. And WHO YOU WANT TO BE. These are the essential questions.
Just as the holder of a journalism degree and a press pass is not necessarily a great reporter. Likewise those who possess a degree in marketing won’t necessarily live up to become good commercial strategists. Even if the piece of paper that you will be holding shortly is very important. It will not determine the rest of what happens in your life. You will have to take care of that yourselves.
So don’t fuss too much about the job you think you are predestined to. Just because you hold this piece of paper. The job is a means to an end. Not the end itself. Now bear also in mind that there is no such thing as equality on the job market.
You may not get the slot you so eagerly want. For objective reasons: candidates competing for the same job may have other distinguishing factors: DRIVE, PERSONALITY or EXPERIENCE. The reasons could also, unfortunately, be more occult. Like “My father knows X so you better hire me”. Or, “my mum is the mistress of Y, so treat me well!” This is happening quite often these days !!!
“That which does not kill us makes us stronger” wrote Nietzsche the philosopher. So brace yourselves. For the process of becoming strong has started. Henceforth, you will be chosen or maybe rejected. You will be asked to do things for which you have not been trained or do not want to do. You will make wrong or premature career decisions. You may at some point be the slackest employee around and get fired.
Maybe because you rested on your laurels or did not seize a chance to choose a new career path or undergo additional training. All this can and WILL probably happen to you. And no one here has any set of rules to help you go through these events unscarred. However, all the scars will be useful, they will make someone out of you. They will tell you who you are.
By the way, Who are you? I like to say that a huge majority of our population comprises of sheep. Yes SHEEP. Political opinion polls show it! Right now there might be some sheep in the auditorium. You see, we take great pride in saying that we have two national sports in Mauritius. The first being Football and the second Politics. But we are equally appalling at both. And strangely we seem to be content about that.
In sports, we are nowhere near having a decent football championship or national team. I think I read that we have one of the worst fifa ranked national teams in the world. So we keep dreaming to numb the pain. While watching Barcelona, Manchester United or Real Madrid. It helps us forget how bad we are I guess. Helps us, stay sheepish.
In politics, it’s even worse. We have a system where the youngest leader is 65 years old. His two main opponents are 68 and 83. For the past 30 years, we’ve being choosing our Prime minister amongst those three. After the 2015 general elections, one of them will probably still lead our country. But, this doesn’t seem to stir any kind of uneasiness amongst the sheep.
Yet again, they choose to numb the pain by looking elsewhere. Towards the UK or the USA. David Cameron is 46. Barack Obama is five years older. They are young. They are the incarnation of change and political evolution. POLITICAL EVOLUTION : this is a VERY SCARCE commodity in Mauritius.
This is what I want to leave you with tonight. The quality education that you have received at CTI has made thinking men and women out of you. You now need to use that FOR the collective good. Getting a job, founding a family, getting the nice car or house is one thing. But what about the collective responsibility that the thinking men and women of this country bear ?
The question I put to you is straight forward: as from tonight will you be sheep with a piece of paper? Or active citizens? Please do not misconstrue what I am calling for. This is not a call to arms. I am actually NOT asking you to join politics and try to get rid of the actual leaders. If, howeever, you have the will and stamina, by all means : DO IT. We obviously are in need of that too.
What I am rather advocating is for you to not be bystanders. Or, at best, facebook activists. The real deal is real life activism, street activism not webactivism! I urge you. Look around. We live in a beautiful country but Mauritius… CE N’EST PAS UN PLAISIR.
Extreme poverty, environmental issues, drug abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, a fossilised political system. To evolve, all these sectors are in desperate need of extra and new pairs of hands and brain lobes.
Don’t be the sheep who will one day jump off the cliff just because the other sheep have been doing it for so long. Be critical thinking men and women. Don’t just wish for change. Incarnate it. This is my wish for you. Thank you very much for your attention.