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June 17, 2018

Dear Graduates of 2018

Fostering Community

Dr. Leanne Foster’s Commencement Address to the Class of 2018 on Trafalgar Day:

Dear Graduates of 2018,

What an exciting time this is, as you prepare to say goodbye.  As you venture forth from these dear old Castle walls, you will take with you many memories – memories of Camp Kilcoo and air bands, of house plays and holiday bazaars, of rolled up kilts and Trafalgar bugs.  These are sure to be some of the things that you will look back upon fondly in the years to come.

You are graduating in a year filled with momentous events.  The Me Too movement and the tragedy at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in particular, will surely be noted when the history of 2018 is written.  They are key moments in our time, and despite the pain and tragedy that underpins them, they have something hopeful to teach us.

From these events, we’ve seen what can happen when women speak up and are heard.  We’ve seen what can happen when young people speak up and take action.  And we’ve seen what can happen when good and caring people – both men and women – join together to support those who work for positive change.

But through these events, we’ve also come to understand that people emerge on different sides of history, sometimes espousing conflicting points of view.  One person’s victory can feel like another person’s defeat.  And when this happens, it’s easy for us as a society to become polarized.  In university lecture halls and town meetings, on television and talk radio, even in our own provincial politics, forceful and sometimes angry voices speak out to argue about who is right.

You are about to join the world outside our Castle walls.  And like generations of Ontario Ladies’ College and Trafalgar Castle young women who have gone before you, you are entering a world that is changing.  So what does this mean for you?  How can you navigate your way in a world that may feel fractured?   How can you stay true to who you are amid mounting pressures?  How can you use your voice when the voices of those around you may be loud and angry?

People will tell you to be courageous – to persevere in spite of hardship.  Some one might even tell you to endeavour.  And of course, this is good advice that’s well worth heeding.  But I want to challenge you to really think about what it means to do these things.  I want you to think about how you will show courage in this changing world.  How will you persevere?  What will it mean for you to endeavour?

The ability to use your voice with strength is only one part of what I hope you will take from your time at the Castle.  I hope you will also take with you a commitment to listen, to seek not only to be understood, but also to understand.

You see, it takes courage to listen openly to others with whom you disagree.  It takes perseverance to keep asking questions until you understand another person’s point of view.  And it requires that you endeavour to speak up even when those around you may not want to hear what you have to say.

In this age of quick sound bites and 140-character public pronouncements, I hope you will open your minds to the importance of deep understanding.  I hope you will value the diversity you will encounter in society, acknowledge the immense value of different perspectives and different ways of knowing.

In 1993, the Right Honourable Kim Campbell, Canada’s 19th and only female Prime Minister said these words: “I believe that Canadians have the common sense to see that a better future cannot be built on fragmentation.”  I hope your contribution to our future, dear grads, will ensure this to be true.  As you strive for success in your studies and eventually in your career, I encourage you to show compassion towards others, to embrace what it means to be part of a society that is diverse, and to show a willingness to understand the ideas of others.  Each of you has within you, a beautiful and unique voice.  I hope you will use that voice not to tell others that you are right, but to show others that you will stand on the side of right.   If that is your legacy, then I am confident our future is in good hands.

Congratulations on your achievement this year.  We are so very proud of each and every one of you.  I hope you will come back and visit us soon.  Dear old Trafalgar will be waiting.

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