June 5, 2016

Centennial College Convocation Address – Beverley Hammond

Members of the Board of Governors


President Buller


Dean O’Brien and the Dias Party


Family,  friends.


And of course Graduates.  Congratulations!


Thank you for inviting me to share in this special occasion at such an historic institution – the alma mater of esteemed journalists, directors, athletes, politicians and explorers.


An impressive list of alumni that includes John Candy.    And Even my Vice President at REPUBLIC who graduated class of 2004 AND our finance clerk, Joe Drennan - a very recent alumnus.  His convocation was this morning. So it’s truly an honour to be asked to share a few words of advice with you.


It's also a little nerve-wracking primarily because - as it turns out   - I’m giving THE LAST LECTURE YOU’LL EVER BE FORCED TO SIT THROUGH HERE AT CENTENNIAL.

Be assured it’s short.  Well shorter than what you might be used to

While the lectures may end here, your learning is only beginning.

So I really wanted to make sure I sent you off with the right message.

I looked up the best convocation speeches in history - the likes of Churchill, Obama, Deniro Steve Jobs.  Even Will Ferrell.

Yes – if you Google best convocation speeches Will Ferrell DOES come up.

I asked my stepkids – all early in their own careers - what they have learned.

I spoke to people I admire and I thought about my own experience.

So from the profound, to the profane and the practical, has come a CONVOCATION MASH-UP of sorts.

About Choice.  Chance.  And Change.


Now how each of you got to THIS place will be different.

First here to Centennial College, of course and then through your program.

Maybe your parents wanted you to do this.

Your best friend from high school was coming to Centennial.

You needed a career change.

And along the way an instructor or a classmate, or any number of people gave you that extra help and encouragement that kept you going when you needed it.

Chances are it took a village – as the saying goes.

So please take a moment to think about those people who were part of your college journey.

And don't forget to thank them.

Then realize that whether you got here today because of, or with help from parents, friends, or teachers

TOMORROW– it’s all on you.

That’s the first big change that occurs as you cross this invisible threshold.

Every decision – good and bad.

Your choice.  Your call.  Your fault.  Your win.  Your loss.   All of it.

Its now up to you. And my first piece of advice to you today is to “own it”.

It sounds a bit scary but being responsible for your own your choices is exciting.

Our daughter recently quit her first real career job.  She loved her bosses and her colleagues and we were so proud of her but it wasn't the right fit for her.  She struggled with that for months.

And then she realized it was her decision, not her dad’s or mine or anybody else’s.

And as soon as she realized she  “owned” that decisions, she felt empowered to make it.   She learned a lot about who she is and what she is capable of in the process.

And when she broke the news she quoted Aubrey Graham – I couldn’t resist sharing it with you :  “y’all need to know yourselves”

Know who you are.  And what is important to you

Never before in the history of humankind, have we had so much access to ideas and perspectives to inform our own opinions.

Never before have we’ve witnessed to such an extent the power of the average person to make a difference.

I encourage you to stay informed about what is happening around you.

It is so easy -  through SnapChat Discover, Twitter, the Vice App whatever…

Be informed.   And whether its girls education in Africa, Gay Marriage, poverty reduction, the environment.  Find what is important to you.

Then do something about it.

Know that in this time - more than ever before  - YOU CAN.

I come from the generation that kind of left it to everybody else.    We told ourselves “there’s nothing I can do about that”.

We left climate change to the environmentalists.

Poverty Reduction to Bob Geldoff, the government, not for profits;

Financial regulation to a lot of smart guys in suits.

How’d that work out?

We may not have had the access and tools and information that exist today.  But we had the chance.    In many ways we squandered it.

I urge you to embrace the opportunity of the times.

Its not just a cliché - You really CAN BE the change you want to see in the world.

Pretty easy to say standing up here, right?


But in no way will it be easy to do.

And you too will make a few mistakes along the way.

That's okay.  My next piece of advice comes from our son Cam – 3 years into an engineering career - Fail fast.

I know it seems a little ironic as we celebrate your success that I am telling you that.

Let me explain what it means – in his words:

“It’s important to understand the value in trying new stuff, being vulnerable to messing it up, but learning from that and pushing forward.”

This message is not just his - or mine today – but a sentiment that has been shared through the ages.   By very wise people – probably more than any other.

In the words of the author, James Joyce “Mistakes are the portal to discovery”

Accept them.  Learn from them.  And move on.

Do not live in fear of failure.

I am actually here today because I failed.

I’m a CEO who wanted to be a Constitutional Lawyer.

Just for the record, I got great marks on my LSAT.

But a few “not so great marks” early in my university career kept me from getting into law school.

I did not have a plan B.

So at the urging of a friend who lived in Ottawa, I moved there -  where

- armed with a university degree -  I sold shoes and waited on tables.

She worked on Parliament Hill so I took a chance at a job opening in the office of a federal cabinet minister.

Now I wasn't really active in politics.  I hadn’t been a member of any campus political party or attending the rallies.

So in Ottawa – for someone like me – this job was a total long shot. I got it.

That led to another role and another role and for many years Politics was my career.

My political resume opened up a whole new world for me.  And I parlayed that into my next career in advertising PR and marketing.

And still today as an entrepreneur and a business owner I live by the mantra I learned then:

“In life, it’s not always about getting a chance.  Its about taking a chance”.

So here I am.  Not a Constitutional Lawyer.

Nowhere close.   It all started because I failed at the first thing I wanted to do.

As Stephen Colbert put it so perfectly:

“Dreams can change, if we all stuck with our first dreams there would be a lot of cowboys and princesses running around.”

You have all achieved something important here today.

But what makes it truly valuable is what you choose to do with it tomorrow.

And that is up to you.

As Chris told me – a big learning for him has been that his education is not something that will guarantee his success.  Conversely he has discovered that it cannot hold him back.


Maybe you’ll get a job directly related to your studies or maybe you’ll be an actor or a director, or even that explorer.  Choose what’s right for YOU and then figure out where your education fits in.

Your education is meant to lay the foundation.  That’s it.  No more.  No less.

And as you leave this place and this lecture and this period in your life

I encourage you to consider that you do have choices.

Those choices are yours and yours alone.

Own them.

Take some chances.  And be comfortable that they may not work out.

Recognize that failure can be a beginning as much as it can be an end.

And do not let the fear of it get in your way.

Finally Believe that it IS POSSIBLE for you – YES YOU -  to make change.

You alone.  Or with many others.

Time and place and technology have given you an incredible gift.

You have unprecedented access to ideas and opinions and information.

And the channels through which you can express your beliefs and your opinions as broadly as you wish.

Be informed and have a voice. Because Centennial College and the diploma that you receive here today have helped shape you.   But they will not define you.

You will be defined by those choices only you own,

The chances you take and the change that you make in the world around you.

Tomorrow and every day after that.

How wonderful.

Congratulations.  Good luck.

And thank you.