Mayor Laws' address to the Wanganui School of Design Graduation Ceremony - 29/11/2004Mayor Laws' address to the Wanganui School of Design Graduation Ceremony at the Royal Opera House, Wanganui (20 November 2004)
Dr Stephen Joe, Mr Paul McElroy, Ucol Staff, Graduands, Ladies & Gentlemen:
Graduations have always been celebrations of both achievement and hope. They are intensely personal affairs very much matters of personal triumph
but also displays of expectation.
Because every graduate today is not simply looking forward to walking through the door that their diploma or degree has opened them
but they're also today - declaring something about themselves.
And that is
that they're not too shabby. In fact, they're damned good. That they have achieved. And that here they come, world ready or not.
And it's that sense of exultation that makes today so important. That is why we're all here - parents, partners, family and whanau
because we feel such an enormous pride at what these graduates have achieved. And, more importantly, what they're about to achieve.
In today's world and Wanganui is no different it is easy to be beset by the negatives. To grumble and groan about the difficulties. To be deflected by the morose and, frankly, to be frustrated by the moronic.
Yeah, well there's an antidote to all those gripes. And an answer to all those grumps. And they are seated before us today achievers, winners, graduates.
According to my notes, there are 70 School of Design graduates today 36 of whom come from overseas. So I think it would be reasonable to surmise that Wanganui is not necessarily your hometown. That this is your learning town and from hence forth you will scatter to the four winds. Or at least to the Slippery Saddle.
I hope that Wanganui was good to you. I hope that the experiences you had here of Ucol, of your lecturers, of your loves and of your parties, of your friends and your entire student experience
will be something that you treasure forever.
And even if it's not can I tell you that when you get to my age, then it will be. That's the wonderful thing about memory it has this ability the older you get to golden the past, and banish the bad.
Which is why I an Otago University graduate have such fond memories of all my student days. Of the flats and the pubs, the caf and the campus
the lecturers and the lamp-posts that I'd lean on at three in the morning.
Because that's the thing about being a student. It's not simply the degree or the diploma it's the life experience you acquire. The boundaries youve tested, the limits you've challenged, the horizons you've already crossed.
(Some, I understand, have even found novel ways to short-circuit telephone tolls. Which I have to say my flat was equally guilty of some 25 years ago at Otago. We even had a flatmate who would stagger in after midnight and habitually call the Ukraine. Whoever was at the other end spoke no English, and my flatmate certainly spoke no Russian
but after a skinful of Speights, they seemed to have no communication difficulties at all.)
Although I must say, that I stand as an object lesson that a degree doesn't necessarily make you smart. After I'd finished at Otago, I went straight into politics. Ah yes, you can lead a horse to water
but you can't make it think.
But and here's the point whatever degrees, diplomas, prizes or honours that you might have gained here tomorrow is very much a blank page. In many senses, the truer challenge is yet to come.
Because while Ucol might have supplied the learning, it's now entirely up to you how you apply it. I had a chat last Friday night, at the opening of the Artrageous exhibition, with a student who said that he'd completed his course
and now was over it. He wanted to do something entirely different.
Some might think he wasted his time and acquired a large student loan to get to that point. I disagree. Very much the same thing happened to me at Otago. I started to study the law before I realized that it was not for me. Dear Lord, if I wanted to be bored for the rest of my life I would have gone straight into local body politics.
And yet I apply that learning from my law lectures every day. So to will my Ucol friend. Because tertiary education isn't simply about the acquisition of skills. It's about learning self-discipline, meeting deadlines, problem-solving
an array of life skills that are as important as the degree. Indeed, in some ways, more important.
Because the world is changing. Very quickly indeed. Todays belief is tomorrow's superstition. Today's certainties are tomorrow's myths.
And that means that attitude and character become everything. That no matter what the degree, no matter how brilliant the diploma, today is about declaring your potential. It's tomorrow that is about proving it.
There is one other matter I would like to touch on today. My especial plea to graduates.
We'd like you to come back. Yes, I know that there are mountains to climb, countries to see and vistas to conquer
but Wanganui will always welcome you back. Over the past 15 years, this city has lost over 25% of its 18-35 year age group. We've lost the movers and shakers, the risk-takers and rousers, both the demographic icons and iconoclasts.
Which puts the responsibility upon people like me to attract you back. And upon Wanganui in general to say that we have to lift our own standards, be professional with other people's money, and be far-sighted and creative in the way we spend it.
Because the truth is that Ucol is critical to Wanganui's future. We need a vibrant tertiary institution here. But not just any tertiary facility. One that has a reputation and a lifestyle that attracts in the same way Otago attracts thirsty northerners like flies.
I have a personal dream that Ucol relocates to the Old Town the heritage quarter of Wanganui. If it does, I'd like Council to join them. I want the vibrancy and vitality that are students and student life
embraced by the rest of the city. I want the colour and the conviviality to become an essential part of the city's social as well as economic fabric.
Finally, my only piece of advice to graduates. And it comes from Nike, so I can't even claim it as original.
'Just do it'. Take risks, seize opportunities, explore.
Because life is not about tucking yourself in front of the telly, sipping hot cocoa and fretting over whether the wallpaper matches the carpet.
Nothing great was ever achieved by caution. And nothing brilliant was ever achieved without hard work. You've learned the latter lesson. Now you need to apply the first.
Because success is selfish. It demands enterprise and perseverance. Intuition and hard work. Ucol has armed you with the skills your personality will determine the rest. And know that for every step you take, Wanganui is proud of you. And that we know you can do it.