President's Graduation Reply (speech)
It is brilliant to be here today. To march through Dunedin City and to enjoy such a dazzling day is fantastic. There is so much energy and zing in this hall, it’s that feeling of excitement that only a graduation has.
Today is surely the best time to reflect upon the amazing accomplishment today’s graduates have achieved. They have had the thrill of facing a challenge, of looking tertiary education straight on and deciding “Yes – education will make a difference; I will take up this challenge!”
It is appropriate, therefore, that we celebrate our graduate’s spectacular achievements, and remember the multifaceted aspect of the challenge, which, for each and every graduate is on one level, very personal.
The act of signing on the dotted line at the beginning of a course may have meant spending time with computers… a challenge if the on button is something you haven’t been “formally introduced to”… it may have included knowing intimately the muscle structures of humans, skeletal structures of cats, or the building structures that shelter us from the elements. It may have meant ceasing full time work to enter full time study – a huge commitment on many levels – or confronting the challenge of dyslexia and having essay successes and let’s not forget the deeply personal challenge of two minute noodles for dinner, again…
The multifaceted challenges begin to sparkle here – where personal challenge crosses over into our whanau, our hapu – our family and our community.
Many of our wonderful graduates will have faced the early morning challenge of “out of bed, weetbix, shoes and the …”Is there time for socks” thought before racing out the door to be on time – and that’s just for your kids – let alone getting to polytech on time with the ever-present car park challenge! It may be the multitasking challenge of juggling the cost of a text book, the weekend rugby subs or the winter power bill.
Whatever the challenge, the path of study is rewarding. Along the journey you learn many things about yourself, made new friends and gain new skills… however, as is often the case with challenges there is a less than wonderful aspect.
The fact that many of today’s’ graduates - who make up our family and community - have had to take on a student loan for fees and/or borrow money to pay for rent and food is especially concerning. I have to ask if there is something in our society that needs challenging when nudity and broken bottles generate more discussion than the reality of our youth and struggling families being burdened for life with student debt.
The present cost of education and the burden it places on our graduates is an obvious and unavoidable reality and we must continue to challenge future governments so there will be no student debt to affect birth rates, send our cousins and brothers overseas, or stop people from entering higher education. This year especially, challenging the fact that student debt is society’s cost is very relevant.
Today’s remarkable graduates know the challenge of education intimately and the challenge now will be to go out and use your education to make our local and national community fantastic. I am confident the future will be amazing because of the dedication and perseverance that has brought you here today. That you have challenged yourself to be here today will touch individual people and our community in ways you will never know. Graduates, you deserve this day of appreciation. I genuinely thank you and offer you glittering warm wishes for future successful challenges.