Teachers’ pension chief advises Glendon graduates to take risks

As Principal Kenneth McRoberts remarked at convocation ceremonies for York’s Glendon graduates held June 17, “it’s not often one hears an actuary talk about taking risks.” And yet that is just what honorary degree recipient Claude R. Lamoureux advised students to do in what he called a rapidly shrinking, competitive – and flat – world.

Claude LamoureuxLamoureux, president and chief executive officer of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, admitted that people in his profession are known for being cautious but, speaking in both his native French and English, he reminded the graduands that a basic tenet of investing is, “the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward”.

Left: Lamoureux speaks to Glendon graduates at 2006 convocation ceremonies

“Not everyone is inspired to take risk and that’s a pity,” Lamoureux said. “If people are not adventurous when they’re young, how will they know what they are truly capable of?”

Taking his cue from Thomas Friedman, author of the best-selling book The World is Flat, Lamoureux described the impact of technology on our lives in an “insomniac” world where data is collected in North America during the day and processed overnight in Asia. Lamoureux told students what they are up against in what he called an ever-shrinking world of abundant opportunities and competitors. “These competitors are not the students sitting around you,” he said, “they are the graduates of India or China, Estonia or Ireland. They are eager to be part of our world without actually having to move here. The internet and the World Wide Web make that possible. They are the heartbeat of a new world that can engage all of us.”

An advocate of bilingualism, Lamoureux congratulated Glendon students for having made a special investment in their education, which he said would pay dividends. “In terms of your diploma from Glendon, you have an advantage in this ‘flat’ world,” he said. “You all speak two languages; many of you, indeed, speak three or four. Companies and governments have need of people like you…. To communicate with them and collaborate with them amicably needs agreement. How do you compete in a shrinking world? That depends in part on what inspires you and in part on how much risk you are prepared to take.”

Peter Cory with Claude Lamoreaux

Right: York Chancellor Peter Cory (left) with Lamoureux at the convocation ceremony

Although he counselled students to continue investing in education throughout their lives to remain competitive, he also warned against analysis paralysis. “Too much [education] is not good; it can stifle creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation,” he said. “It can make you too aware of all points of view and leave you without a point of view of your own. Yet, a fresh point of view can lead you, with imagination, to vision and it is visionaries who change the world.”

After thanking Lamoureux for his address, McRoberts congratulated the graduating students and picked up on his theme of language as leverage in a competitive world. McRoberts said Ontario has the largest concentration of immersion students in the whole country: 150,000. “The presence of so many students in the French immersion system is itself a major achievement yet, if these students are to retain their capacity in their second official language , let alone deepen it, they must be able to use French in their postsecondary study, otherwise we will have wasted a major investment of public funds, let alone missed an important opportunity for the country as a whole.

“In short,” McRoberts concluded, “as the only institution in southern Ontario that offers university instruction in French, Glendon has a special responsibility for two important populations: a diverse and growing Francophone population and Ontario’s primary concentration of French immersion students. Happily these two populations are well represented among the students graduating this afternoon.”

To view the video archive of the June 17 Convocation Ceremony at Glendon visit the June 2006 Convocation Web site.