There were no stone tablets and there was no mountain
to descend, but the author and journalist Peter
C. Newman brought 10 commandments for new graduates
after he received his honorary Doctor of Laws degree
during Spring Convocation. Here is a portion of
“If I could give
you two quick words of advice before you go out
into the cold cruel world, those two words would
be: don’t go! But go you must, so please
follow the advice of a Nova Scotia politician
I once heard say: ‘It’s time to grab
the bull by the tail and look the situation straight
in the face.’ That’s what you gotta
do, and because I don’t want you to go into
the cold cruel world unarmed, I want to offer
you 10 commandments to light your way.
The sad fact is that your professors have spent
the past four years or more preparing you for
a world that doesn’t exist. You have been
coddled in a forgiving environment, qualitatively
different from the turbulent market-place where
you will now have to earn a living.
All that you celebrate today is the end of your
apprenticeship. In truth, you stand on the threshold
of your real education. And yet, believe me, you
will look back at these halls of learning with
nostalgia, and even love. You’ve been lucky.
Very lucky. So repay your good fortune by never
abandoning your idealism.
Which brings me to my next commandment: Always
remain open to new experience. You may discover
that the middle class life and values (for which
you now presumably qualify) are less, much less
than you bargained for. Don’t allow yourselves
to be tamed or house-broken. Be true to the values
of your own generation—not those of your
The seventh commandment is a natural sequel to
that thought: Don’t trade off your energy,
your imagination, your vitality too cheaply. You
and you alone are the future. We have no choice.
Utilize that leverage. Don’t let us exploit
you. Don’t sell out. (But if you have to,
don’t go too cheap.)
That leads me to the eighth commandment: Always
fight the status quo. Never join it. I haven’t.
Reject the assumption that more is better, the
efficiency and material gain are the ultimate
goals of human activity. They’re not. Having
fun is; by that I mean enjoying what you do and
how you live.
Your education, which you crammed so hard to achieve,
will turn out to be worthwhile. But always remember
this: Your education may or may not provide you
with a higher standard of living. But it will
provide you with a higher standard of life.
My 10th and last commandment: Get excited about
being Canadian. This Canada of ours is not some
vague, valedictorian’s dream. Go out and
touch the earth. Get to know this country, feel
its contours, wade across its streams, climb its
mountains, sail its waters, savour its forests
(if you can find one). Work to enhance the qualities
of life that make this blessed land of ours unique
and precious. Never ever take being Canadian for
One last thought. If you don’t feel equipped
to comfort the afflicted, go out there and afflict
the comfortable. I wish you luck. I wish you fun.
Thanks for listening (and don’t forget to
Back to Ringside