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TUT Keynote Graduation 2012

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  • 1. Dr  Muavia  Gallie                     !Keynote  at  the  TUT  graduation  ceremony  11  May  2012  –  10h00  to  12h00  South  Campus,  Gencor  Community  Hall    Let   me   start   off   by   greeting   all   the   important   dignitaries   as   well   as   our   students   who   are  graduating,   with   their   parents,   and   social   supporters   on   their   sides.     I   reflect   back   to   my  graduation  when  I  first  completed  my  Teachers’  Diploma  in  Commerce  in  1984,  and  decided  not  to  go  to  the  graduation  ceremony,  for  political  reasons.    Then,  we  did  not  want  to  glorify  Apartheid   education,   and   today   I   want   to   honour   my   parents   for   accepting   my   wish   not   to   go,  despite   me   knowing   that   they   were   looking   forward   to   that   graduation   ceremony.     In  particular,   my   father   passed   on   without   experiencing   the   opportunity   to   attend   one   of   my  subsequent   graduation   ceremonies   –   my   mother,   who   was   still   alive   then   managed   to  experience  this  unique  event.    With   the   low   level   of   success   in   education   currently   in   South   Africa,   only   1   out   of   12   students  who   started   grade   1,   ever   have   the   opportunity   to   experience   this   event,   and   therefore   you  need   to   regard   yourself   as   very   special,   or   maybe   privileged.     Privileged   because   we,   who  made  it,  were  not  necessarily  the  best  among  the  group  of  students  who  started,  but  rather  that  the  system  only  allowed  a  small  group  of  students,  by  design,  to  succeed.        For   this   reason,   I   would   like   to   share   three   key   ideas   with   you,   as   a   reminder   of   your  responsibility  towards  those  who  never  made  it.    1.   Who  are  you?  Or  How  do  we  define  ourselves/  our  identity?    There  is  a  popular  song  by  an  American  soul-­‐R&B  singer,  India  Arie,  called  “I  am  not  my  hair”.    Just   last   week,   I   did   some   work   with   two   matric   student   groups   in   Cape   Town   and   Paarl,  making  up  more  than  500  students,  where  I  engaged  with  them  that  ‘they  are  not  their  skin  colour,   their   parents,   their   communities,   their   mistakes,   their   economic   and/or   financial  situation,   their   circumstances,   etc.     Rather,   they   are   what   they   want   to   be,   and   therefore   what  they  are,  would  be  their  decisions,  their  responsibilities,  their  choices,  their  dreams.    This  is  as  relevant  to  them,  as  it  is  to  you  at  this  crucial  stage  in  your  life.    If  you  are  not  happy  with  what  you  are,  especial  if  you  know  that  you  were  under-­‐performing  up  to  this  point,  that  you  can  change  this  through  a  ‘split  second’  decision,  just  like  that.    And  so  whatever  is  happening  in  your  life,  and  where  you  are,  is  a  result  of  ‘where  you  want  to  be’  –  it  is  a  choice.    You  therefore  have  to  take  100%  responsibility  for  your  life,  and  what  you  make  of  it.    No  one  owes  you  anything.    You  are  not  entitled  to  a  free  ride  in  this  world  –  especially  not  where  you  are  going  after  your  ‘protected  life’  at  university.    Whatever  you  will  receive  in  life,  are  gifts.    Whatever  you  do  with  those  gifts  is  up  to  you.    Some  of  those  gifts  may  have  double  edges  but  they  are  still  a  viable  source  of  learning  and  growing  and  accepting  what  this  life  has  in  store  for  you.         1  
  • 2. 2.   No  one  owes  you  as  much  as  you  owe  yourself    During   my   travels   through   this   country,   as   well   as   abroad   (I   am   excited   to   be   traveling   to  Samoa  in  the  next  two  weeks)  I  have  been  blessed  to  have  met  people  from  all  walks  of  life,  but  regardless  of  their  differences,  I  find  nearly  everyone  is  looking  for  happiness.    After  all,  what   is   life   without   happiness?   –   and   here   I   am   not   referring   to   pleasure,   since   pleasure   is  more  ‘short  lived’,  while  happiness  is  a  more  long-­‐term  feeling  of  joy.        However,  another  common  thread  seems  to  be  running  through  the  lives  of  so  many  as  well.  They   are   looking   to   be   repaid   for   some   type   of   offense   committed   against   them,   real   or  imagined,   either   way   they   feel   they   are   owed   something.     This   debt   or   grudge,   real   or  perceived,  is  carried  through  life  for  years.    And  over  the  course  of  years,  resentment,  anger,  and  frustration  attached  itself  to  this  debt.        In   particular,   in   our   country,   we   have   those   who   believe   that   they   are   entitled   to   things   –  whether  it  is  material  or  monetary  or  a  position/title.    If  we  continue  in  this  vein,  we  will  be  in  serious  trouble  with  this  type  of  mentality.    There  is  nothing  in  live  that  is  ‘for  free’  –  either  you  have  paid  for  it  already,  or  you  will  be  paying  for  it  in  the  future.    Let  me  be  a  bit  more  specific.    All  those  who  are  graduating  here  today  owe  it  to  others  for  the  trust  they  had  in  you  to  come  and  study,  and  graduate.    Most  of  you  got  a  bursary,  whether  you  have  to  pay  it  back,  or  not.    So,  you  have  received  nearly  R100  000  of  investment  by  either  taxpayers,   of   which   I   am   one,   or   some   other   sources.     But   someone   needed   to   trust   you  enough  to  invest  in  your  future,  and  therefore  it  is  important  for  your  to  know  that  it  is  your  turn  to  ‘repay’  that  favour  in  order  for  others  to  benefit  the  way  you  benefitted.    When  I  speak  to  my  students  about  this  matter,  they  often  think  that  there  is  a  tree  or  some  money-­‐printing  machine  where  their  bursary  is  coming  from  –  NO,  there  is  no  such  thing.    This  phenomenon  is  called  ‘giving’  (or  giving  forward).    Those  who  gave,  don’t  want   the  money  back;  they  want  you,   the   way   they   ‘picked   you   up   on   their   shoulders’,   that   you   do   the   same   for   others   in  allowing  them  to  get  onto  your  shoulders.    We   therefor   have   to   get   away   for   this   ‘selfish’   attitude   of   only   focusing   on   the   ‘me’   –   grabbing  whatever   is   available,   even   if   you   can   or   will   never   use   it,   or   you   don’t   need   it.     Doing  everything  for  yourself,  for  your  own  benefit.    Great  joy  don’t  come  from  ‘taking’,  since  the  joy  of  receiving  is  very  short  lived,  while  the  joy  of  ‘giving’  lives  for  long  within  our  hearts  –  it  is  the   kind   of   warm   feeling   you   get   when   you   do   something   good   to   someone   you   don’t   even  know,  or  had  an  obligation  towards.    3.   Moving  beyond  Mediocrity    There  is  an  interesting  movie  called  “The  pursuit  of  Happyness”,  where  Will  Smith,  the  main  actor,  is  indicating  to  his  son  in  the  moving  that  “don’t  every  let  somebody  tell  you  that  you  can’t   do   something.     Not   even   me.     Okay.     You’ve   got   a   dream;   you  got  to  protect  it.    People  can’t  do  something  themselves,  they  want  to  tell  you  that  you  can’t  do  it.    You  want  something,  go  get  it,  period!”    This   notion   of   pulling   each   other   down   is   often   out   of   a   deep   fear.     The   poet,   Marianne  Williamson,  in  her  poem  called  “Our  deepest  fear”,  relates  to  us  the  following:  Our  deepest  fear  is  not  that  we  are  inadequate;  Our  deepest  fear  is  that  we  are  powerful  beyond  measure;  If  is  our  light,  not  our  darkness  that  most  frightens  us;     2  
  • 3. Your  playing  small  does  not  serve  the  world;  There  is  nothing  enlightened  about  shrinking  …  so  that  other  people  won’t  feel  insecure  around  you;  We  were  born  to  make  manifest  the  glory  that  is  within  us;  It  is  not  just  in  some  of  us;  it  is  in  everyone;  And   as   we   let   our   own   light   shine,   …   we   unconsciously   give   other   people   permission   to   do   the  same;  As  we  are  liberated  from  our  fear,  …  our  presence  automatically  liberates  others.    In  conclusion,  I  want  to  indicate  to  you  that  our  country  needs  you  to  be  one  of  those  who  will  contribute  towards  restoring  the  dignity  of  all  the  people  in  South  Africa.       • You  have  to  be  part  of  those  who  will  start  giving,  rather  than  taking.       • You  have  to  be  part  of  those  who  will  start  caring  about  others,  and  not  just  yourself;   • You  have  to  be  part  of  those  who  are  prepared  to  speak  the  truth  to  power;   • You   have   to   be   part   of   those   who   will   be   honest,   rather   than   be   corrupt,   cheating,   stealing,  looting,  etc.;   • You   have   to   be   part   of   those   who   will   invest   for   the   long-­‐term   good,   rather   than   the   immediate  short  term  gains;   •  You   have   to   be   part   of   those   who   would   want   to   earn   your   way,   rather   than   expecting   hand-­‐outs  from  others;  and   • You  have  to  be  part  of  those  who  will  build  the  country,  even  if  you  don’t  personally  get   the  benefits,  rather  than  wanting  to  see  personal  benefits.    We  have  over  4,2  million  youth  in  our  country,  who  are  slowing  loosing  hope.    You  can’t  join  them  in  the  cue  of  hopelessness.    You  have  to  assist  us  in  creating  hope  for  all  of  them.    Please  stand  up  and  be  counted,  in  whatever  small  way,  and  wherever  you  are  going  find  yourself.    Make  a  difference  …  let  others  feel  the  difference.    Your  space  must  be  a  better  space  since  you  have  arrived  there  …  and  the  difference  must  be  YOU.    Go  in  peace.    I  thank  you.           3  

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