Canadian senator Donald Oliver urged graduating students to embrace information, interaction and influence to better understand trends and developments that can be used to make meaningful change in the world.
“As young graduates, you have a choice of how you want to contribute to our country and to the world,” said Oliver, who received an honorary doctor of laws degrees Tuesday at York’s 2012 Spring Convocation ceremony for the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. “You must seize your opportunities to become positive agents for change.”
Right: York Chancellor Roy McMurtry, Donald Oliver and York President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri
A passionate and vocal advocate for the rights of others, Oliver made a conscious choice to dedicate his life to ensuring equality for others and to stamp out racism. Among his many accomplishments is his role in helping to change organizational practices in the Public Service of Canada to increase hiring, promotion and retention of visible minorities.
In 2005, he spearheaded the largest study in the history of Canada on barriers to the advancement of visible minorities in both the public and the private sector.
Graduates can take on the role of change makers by embracing and harnessing the immense power of the social web and the Internet to become informed, to interact with others and to exert influence for positive change. “These are three assets that you can leverage to better understand trends and developments, to share ideas and opinions, to shape events and indeed the course of history as never before.
“Given that information is so widely available and more accessible to everyone, we now live in a world where we can instantly interact and influence others,” said Oliver. “Lead beside and collaborate closely with others to get things done.
“I believe that your capacity to influence and make change is huge,” said Oliver, who said he has been consistently impressed at the insight and maturity shown by today’s graduates. “They understand that what divides us is not as important as what we share in common.”
There is a new level of acceptance for the richness that diversity provides, which he said was encouraging and gave him great hope for the future.
“As you make your way forward, I hope that you will take advantage of your great potential to make a difference and make our world better,” he said.