Graduation address – Katherine Hawley

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Chancellor, Ladies and Gentlemen

Since my address is one of the few remaining things keeping you from your celebrations, I promise to be brief.

Graduates: you are all here today because you’ve lived up to the trust which was placed in you nearly five years ago, when an admissions tutor decided to take a chance, picking you above the other twenty applicants who were vying for each place. And that decision has paid off – you have responded magnificently to that initial opportunity, and to the many other opportunities offered to you over the following years. You rose to the challenge of our trust, and you’ve earned the degrees you now hold.

The trust of your family and friends – old and new – has helped you get here today. They offered their love and support – that’s moral support, as well as financial support! – they trusted you to make the most of this support in your studies and beyond. Their trust was rewarded by seeing you step onto this stage today, perhaps watching from here in this hall, or else via the web broadcast.

But to reach this milestone, it was necessary for you to put your trust in us: the University, the lecturers and professors, the Principal, and also the cleaners and plumbers, janitors and cooks, secretaries and accountants who keep this complex institution alive. You have given us your time, your resources, your energy, and in return we have tried to give you the education and experience you deserve, to show that we have been worthy of your trust.

So congratulations – you have shown that our trust in you was richly deserved. Your challenge now is to show the wider world what you can do, what you can be trusted to achieve. This will take skill and wisdom – some you have already acquired, some you have yet to earn. It will also take hard work and honesty, including the honesty to admit to mistakes, and the willingness to try again.

Learning to place your trust wisely will serve you well. The ideal is to find an Aristotelian golden mean between trusting too little – suspicion and cynicism – and trusting too much – gullibility. As you take on more responsibilities in your working life or your personal life, the fortunes of others will depend on your skills in trusting well. Unfortunately, we don’t offer a module in wise trusting – this is something you’ll learn in the field, by trial and error – and I hope you will all get first class results.

Finally, trust yourself. Learn what you can already do – think what it has taken to get here today – and find out what else you can do. You won’t know until you try. And trust yourself to fail from time to time, to pick yourself up and try again. Those admissions tutors who took a chance on you, a gamble which has paid off handsomely – like them, you should take a chance on yourself. Trust the person you have become, and the person you will be.

Now it’s time for me to repay your trust – I began by promising to be brief, and so I will stop here. Thank you.

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