Optimism and storytelling are powerful forces for those in the arts

Martin Goldfarb was in his element on the York convocation stage and it showed.

Goldfarb is the chairman, president and CEO of The Goldfarb Corporation and Goldfarb Consultants Limited – an international market research company.  A generous philanthropist, ambassador for York University and benefactor of the arts, Goldfarb received an honorary degree from York during Spring Convocation ceremonies for graduands of the Faculty of Fine Arts and Arts on Thursday, June 25. In an animated and dynamic fashion, he delivered a barn burner of a speech on the power of optimism and storytelling in the fine arts. 

Right: Martin Goldfarb 

“You are here because you’ve mastered a body of knowledge. It is that accomplishment that entitles you to the degree that you will receive today. Mastering this body of knowledge in many ways is a reflection of life itself," said the newly-minted Dr. Goldfarb. "You prepare for knowledge and because you have knowledge, you become confident, and because you are confident, you have an optimistic outlook. Optimism leads to success on any commitment you may have.

“You did not choose to study subjects that would guarantee wealth. You did choose to study subject matter that regardless of the discipline is essentially about story telling. Whether it is dance, music, visual arts, writing – no matter what the discipline – it is about storytelling,” said Goldfarb.

He asked graduates to think about being on the 24th floor of a skyscraper. “All of a sudden you see a body floating by. As a sociologist, you might think of this as a suicide. If you were a police officer, it is a potential crime and a medical doctor sees that body as a patient. As a mortician, it is a client and as a physicist, you are wondering how fast that body is travelling,” he said.

“But as an artist, you need you imagination to make that creative leap to turn this incident into a story; it is the story that you tell which becomes your signature. Storytellers in all societies have enormous influence,” said Goldfarb. “In fact storytellers are the shamans of many cultures. They not only influence, they become our leaders. Telling stories is a source of power and influence in almost every society. Telling stories leads to affinity and that affinity is the core attribute of leadership.”

Left: Martin Goldfarb, York Chancellor Roy McMurtry and York President & Vice Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri

Affinity, said Goldfarb, encompasses tangible and intangible attributes. The tangible are the values that are the guiding standards for behaviour that govern behaviour. "These are the promises that you treat as commitments, the covenants that you keep with parents, children and colleagues," he said. "The intangibles are related to daily demeanor, saying ‘yes’ to most things, having a positive attitude. It is the hop in your step, the smile in your voice and the excitement of your demeanor that expresses joy in your daily life. That’s affinity.”

He told graduands that as storytellers of this generation they are the influencers and the leaders of society. “What you do as artists and as people committed to and interested in the arts is our lasting legacy. It is what others will remember about this creative time one hundred years from now. You may not become wealthy but you will enjoy a life that is second to none,” said Goldfarb to cheers from the audience. "Because of your involvement in the arts, you will be the happiest, most privileged group in our culture. The quality of life you will lead, the friends, the thrill, the excitement and adoration that you will experience cannot be surpassed."

He urged those present to have confidence in themselves and their abilities and not to take rejection personally. "Remember success is in your eyes. It is however you define it." he said.

"Don’t be timid, go for it!" 

For a complete listing of the ceremony schedule, click here. York University’s 2009 Spring Convocation ceremonies will be streamed live over the Internet.