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President Barnard’s address to graduating students at UM Virtual Convocation 2020

June 29, 2020 — 

The following is excerpted from the address University of Manitoba President and Vice-Chancellor David T. Barnard delivered to graduands at the 141st Annual Spring Convocation:


Graduands, family members, friends, members of the University of Manitoba community: welcome.

We are participating today in Convocation, the traditional recognition of accomplishments that brings closure to university experience.

This is not a normal time, though, so our experience today is not strictly traditional. We do not have the pomp and ceremony of a grand entrance, or the shared enthusiasm of family members and friends sometimes trying to outdo each other in applauding and cheering for their favourite graduate.

I share your disappointment.

This will be my last Convocation ceremony as President of the University of Manitoba, and I would have liked to see you all face-to-face for this last time.

But we do have the essence of the tradition. The essence is celebrating graduates, and we are pleased to celebrate you and your accomplishments.

There are many stories in every graduating class.

Some of you came from other countries to be here at UM, and you brought your own life stories and traditions with you. Some will have lived at home with parents, others in dormitories, others with friends or classmates or spouses.

Some found their time in their programs flew by, others felt the hard work would never end.

Each of you has a unique and valuable story to tell about your years at UM.

As your pasts are varied, so will your futures be. We cannot know yet what you will each go on to do. Your possibilities are excitingly large. But they will not be the same as the possibilities that faced my generation or your parents’ generation.

You will need to embrace some issues – physical, moral, political, ecological. You have the opportunity and responsibility to contribute to shaping a world order that transcends what we have left for you.

When you are doing that reshaping, remember that each generation before you was passionate but each also created unintended consequences. Many of those who came before you were also eager and idealistic, yet were trapped by passions the entailments of which they sometimes understood but oftentimes did not.

Each of you should be mindful of the unintended consequences as you try to ameliorate the mistakes of others, understanding that your generation will likely make its own mistakes, or have equally misplaced enthusiasms.

We – your University, your families, your friends – are very proud of you. We cannot predict the future, but we know that the prospects ahead of you are wonderful and at the same time a bit daunting.

Build relationships that add value to your lives and reshape the world to be better for your children than what those who have gone before you are leaving to you.

Embrace the traditions and culture of Indigenous people who were here long before many of us arrived.

You are graduating into circumstances unlike those that other generations have experienced. You will need to find your own way through these circumstances. We have confidence that you will do so.

We will all be proud of you if you do that, and this day will be an important marker in the history of our community and our world.

Miigwetch, Kinanaskomitin, Marsee




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