I just graduated! I wasn’t the valedictorian, but that didn’t stop me from writing my speech! So, here it is! 😀
As we look to the future, it is wise to reflect on the past. Indeed, with deep introspection, we may be able to look to the future with humility and confidence.
I would like to share with you, three lessons. One, of foresight, the next of pluralism, and the last, of boredom.
In reflecting on the past, it seems fitting that I speak of my parents. When I was a year old, my parents applied to immigrate to Canada. At the time, it did not make sense to me why my father would think of moving away, leaving behind the luxuries and great businesses that we had. In hindsight, twenty two years later, I have learnt the lesson my father (who I consider the greatest public relationist), was teaching me.
As a Canadian, I have gained access to quality education from a prestigious program, even though McGill students haven not the faintest clue what communications entails, nodding their heads, hoping that the conversation will steer to the Bronfman faculty. Or Biochem.
Indeed, many in Pakistan do not receive basic primary education, let alone a local university degree. Education is the crucial element that forms the building blocks of a strong, democratic, civil society.
I also gained a cosmopolitan experience. This, I believe, is unparalleled by any other material experience, because the society in which we find ourselves, a majority – if not all – successful relationships rely on cultural curiosity and sensitivity.
Foresight also pays off. 20 years from living a lavish life, as the economic, political, and natural crises have taken their toll on innumerable societies, my father thought it prudent to equip us with the demands of the future. As we underwent a personal financial slump, we felt confident than most have the conviction to admit: we were secure and safe, thanks to our education. Thank you, dad.
Pluralism is a word that is tossed around quite frequently in Canada. Sometimes, the word makes no sense. In fact, pluralism means a myriad of things to different people based on their experiences, exposures, and traditions. For me, pluralism is something that I truly understood after successfully completing my first year at York University. When I moved to Canada, I had the experience of what most like to call culture shock. I soon realized, that was just the beginning. University taught me how to think in different ways about the world. As I went back home, the culture shock really hit me. It was not until I moved away from the mirror, and then back in front of it, that I realized that there was so much diversity within my own country
I have never had as much appreciation for the people of Pakistan until my first return. I am also somewhat saddened, that we hesitate in accepting that we are diverse. It seems that our nationalistic pride has come in the way of ourselves. Whether in Canada, or in Pakistan, or anywhere in the world, we must realize that each one of us have a multiplicity of identities. To deny this is to deny our existence and interdependence in society. As His Highness the Aga Khan has said time and time again, pluralism exists in fact, but not in spirit. While the notion of pluralism is fraught with its own problems, it is undeniable that indulging in this notion and consequently acting upon it has benefits that spill over to society as a whole.
The last lesson I would like to share is that of boredom. Boredom breeds disease. Zig Ziglar has asserted many times that he did not know of one person who did not pull themselves out of what we sometimes call depression, by having a goal. Boredom is not a natural state of being. It is counter productive to life and evolving as human beings. What would you like to accomplish today? In the next week? In the next 6 months? In the next year? In the next decade? Write these down. Chances are you will have trouble articulating yourself. But the act of writing itself is so profound, that once you have written the specifics, you will have put yourself ahead of most people. Indeed, the pen is mightier than the sword.
Some of you may be skeptical about my approach and lessons. I would like to address that with a story. When I was in Pakistan, I was an average student. I applied to university not expecting great results. I did not expect to get admitted to a great school, let alone get excellent grades. Fast forward a couple of years, I became an A grade student. I remained the editor of a successful college publication. When everything was working out, my TA Union went on strike for several months. I applied to Concordia University’s communications program, acclaimed to be the most prestigious one in the country. Because of the competition, I wasn’t allowed to transfer. I applied as a new student: the whole application, essays, and portfolio evaluation. Five years later, I graduated specializing in Communication Studies.
Why is this relevant? I wouldn’t have applied if I did not believe in myself. We can do anything we set our minds to. There are obstacles to be faced, but they were all part of the adventure. The more obstacles you overcome, the greater the story you tell.
The lesson? Don’t sell yourself short. Especially to yourself.