Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen, honoured guests and St. Michael’s Graduates of 2017.
I want to begin by thanking the graduating class for choosing a theme that has a song that I actually know and don’t have to Google to find out the words! “Life’s a dance, you learn as you go. Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow.”
Tonight, I want to focus on two key aspects from those lines in that song, learning and leadership. One of my favourite quotes on learning and one that I use often is provided by philosopher Eric Hoffer. He says,
“In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”
Why is learning so important…because we are in times of drastic change and we live in a global economy. The stats say that you will have 10-14 jobs in your lifetime and many of these jobs haven’t even been invented yet. For example, the top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 didn’t exist in 2004. 75 billion devices are expected to be connected to the Internet by 2020 and 10 million self-driving cars will also be on the road. As a farming community, think of the technological advances in the equipment you use in your fields today as compared to even 10 years ago.
It is unrealistic and I would go as far as saying that it is arrogant to think that one can live successfully in this ever changing world without being a learner. But it is important to remember that learning opportunities come to us both formally and informally, through schooling and through life. Being a learner is not just about a destination like post-secondary, it is a life long journey. Never stop being a learner and always be open to learn from everyone you interact with. Lessons can be learned from princes and paupers.
“Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow” reminds us that great leaders do both. And boy, do we need great leaders because we are currently experiencing a leadership void in many areas of our society. Sometimes that leadership void is created because of a “greying” population. For example in Holy Spirit Catholic Schools, we could potentially lose 22 administrators in the system to retirement in the next 5 years. But often the leadership void is created not because of a lack of people in the position but rather a lack of ability to lead. Just because you can host a reality TV show and fire people doesn’t necessarily provide you with the right skills to lead.
No, if you want to lead, if you want to learn about leadership watch Pope Francis. In his book, Pope Francis Why He Leads The Way He Leads, author Chris Lowney references the Pope’s leadership by saying,
“You can’t lead others if you can’t lead yourself. But you can’t lead others if you use power primarily to serve yourself and your ego. Leadership is not about you, it about the rest of us- your family, community, colleagues, or customers.” (pg 41)
In order to lead effectively you must serve others. He goes on to say,
“The new leader will sweep away the idols of self-interest and lead us toward what serves the common good, what respects all people’s rights and freedoms, and what protects our beloved children, and their children after them.” (pg 52)
Many of you have been gifted to grow up in this community and in this school where service to others and where that type of leadership is the norm. Leave St. Michael’s with that frame of leadership always in your actions. Lead for the right reasons and follow the right people!
As I close, I want to leave you with words from our Holy Father,
“We are not alone; we do not walk alone…We walk in front in order to guide the community, in the middle in order to encourage and support, and at the back so that no one lags too far behind, to keep them united.”
On behalf of the entire school division, I wish you congratulations and God’s blessings! Thank you!