Our distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen, graduates, Good Afternoon.
It is my distinct honour and pleasure to welcome you all today to the 29th graduation exercises of the Hamilton Lavity Stoutt Community College in the Eileene L. Parsons Auditorium.
Before I begin, I would like to thank the Board of Governors of HLSCC for their tireless work as well as their support of our institution over the past three years. As stated, this year a new Strategic Plan, Master Plan, and brand identity have been approved. Our five-year Strategic Plan: Charting Our Course reaffirms the College’s commitment to the Territory with an updated vision and mission you will find printed in your programmes. You will soon be able to read the full plan at your leisure, so I will just highlight what we have identified as our new strategic objectives. They are:
- Promoting excellence and expanding opportunities in Teaching & Learning;
- Improving support and reducing barriers to Student Access & Success;
- Strengthening the College’s bonds to the Community & other Institutional Relationships;
- Improving our Institutional Effectiveness & Organisational Development; and
- Expanding and enhancing the Resources & Facilities of the College
I must also thank the Cabinet, our faculty, our staff, our student government association, and our donors, partners, and external stakeholders for the important role you have all played in the development of this important guiding document. But now I can say a few words about why we’re here today.
While graduation is always a joyous and momentous occasion for the graduate, it is also always an important milestone for the institution from which they are departing. The word ‘graduate’ comes to us from the Latin ‘gradus’ meaning degree or step. A degree, as we know, is a unit of measurement. It is a way for us to assess a finite quantity or to measure an extent – points and steps, if you will, on an infinite rule. Today then, these degrees waiting to be conferred on this class, each signify and represent the significant step you have taken toward your various radiant futures.
Your regalia today includes the cap and gown, your stole, as well as other distinguishing cords that signify academic achievement or your membership in particular societies of the academy. The tradition of donning regalia at the ceremony marking the completion of studies dates back at least to Western Europe in the 12th century, when the academy was largely an endeavour of the clergy who wore gowns and hoods and their students wore the same to set them apart from regular citizens.
Your stole, the Kente cloth, represents the ancient wisdom of Africa and the persistent struggle to reclaim our knowledge of self. The Kente cloth originated in Bonwire, Southern Ghana. It is there that the Asante legends tell us that Ananse himself spun a wondrous and elaborate web in the jungle. Two brothers, master weavers, stumbled upon Ananse’s web and became mesmerised. Upon their return to Bonwire, they wove the patterns you now wear about your necks.
Today you join an ever-growing lineage of nation builders who have been spun by the weavers of this great institution. In this brief moment, we can see that unbroken thread glittering in the afternoon sun – when the Minister, the Chairman of the Board, and the President can all trace our roots and our routes back to the halls of H. Lavity Stoutt Community College.
I am deeply aware that we are all part of something larger than ourselves. Our families, our communities, our churches, our nations. It is important that we always remember that we are part of the whole. That nothing we do affects nobody. That there is a network of ripples emanating out of us and every action – every decision that we make. It is sometimes impossible to determine how a choice that we make will impact someone else. That can sometimes be enough to paralyze us, to stop us from moving, from deciding, from choosing. But at the same time, we must realize that not everything that happens to us, happens just because of us. We are simultaneously privileged and disenfranchised, rich and poor, wise and foolish. We are a bundle of anxious contradictions. Fundamentally, we are always, and sometimes more than others, uncertain. When we complete a task, when we succeed, sooner or later we are always wondering: What next?
But I’ve been thinking, that perhaps we need to recognise the beauty of uncertainty. The English novelist Margaret Drabble said: WHEN NOTHING IS SURE, EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE. Perhaps then, uncertainty need not be an anxiety, a worry, or a stress. In fact, uncertainty might be our most powerful weapon with which we face the future. At this moment, everything is possible. That invariably means that there are storms and challenges on the horizon but it also means that there is beauty and wonder and success too!
As I close my brief welcoming remarks, I want to impart some simple advice to the class of 2022. Maybe these words may find some use as well for the rest of us. As you depart these grounds today, in the coming days and years, you will ultimately find yourself choosing a profession. Remember that for most of us, work fills the largest parts of our lives. That can be both awesome and awful, depending on the choices you make. If work demands so much of us, we must demand much of it. It must satisfy you, it must make you want to excel at it, most of all – it must make you BELIEVE in it. In order for this to happen, I advise you to find what you love. Do not settle. Do not quit. Search until you find your calling – your life will thank you.