University of Toronto: Paul Cadario, Convocation 2013 Honorary Degree recipient



vice-chair gold right president nailart d naman members of the academic procession fellow graduates and ladies and gentlemen I am deeply honored by to be here this afternoon and to share this wonderful afternoon with fellow graduates of the University of Toronto's faculty of engineering and with your families while you were here you were taught many things by your professors much of an important some of it useful but they built on a platform that your parents established of common sense and good judgment and I hope you learned a bit more of that too while you were here because I think the combination learning and common sense and good judgment is what engineering is all about all the advice says that a convocation address should be brief like an Oscar speech but even without the orchestra that it should be informative like a TED talk even though there's no Madonna mic or PowerPoint and it should be topical and a little provocative like a Rick Mercer rant but without the rant so I'm going to do my best I'm aware as I hope all you are that in a digital world the Internet is a cruel historian nothing is forgotten ever accordingly this afternoon I will not be talking about cell phone videos tar sands drones the Maple Leafs digital surveillance Senate expenses or tempting as it might be the mayor of toronto what I will talk about though is the future and to talk about the future I'm going to talk about the past specifically 1973 40 years ago when i graduated in civil engineering now the class that started first SAT over there i SAT over there and it was a gorgeous afternoon like today and before the convocation began one of the warders came over and said to me well your first do you know what to do because if you don't everyone else will do it wrong so today my advice to Evers first and I think you're probably sitting over there is just remember that as you exit the stage you look at the golden mace you walk toward it and to the left of it but don't take it away so 1973 was a graduating year for those of us who came to you school barely six weeks after three astronauts had landed on the moon and were returned safely to earth it was an era of big ideas of great leaders and of great oratory when American President John Kennedy set that goal in 1961 he launched an era of huge advance in science and an engineering but beyond this remarkable engineering achievement of that decade the protests in Paris and in Chicago in 1968 had unleashed great social and political unrest through the whole world pierre trudeau had enlisted us young Canadians as part of the new commitment just after we celebrated Canada's first 100 years we were reading books Rachel Carson's Silent Spring about the perils of chemicals to nature and Jane Jacobs on the death and life of great cities just as you all watched Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth about climate change or read Professor Richard Florida's blogs about creatives in great cities like Toronto by 1973 the women's movement was in full stride as society started to realize the importance of unleashing the intelligence energy and creativity of half their half the world who even in Canada did not enjoy their full rights in nineteen seventy three women were allowed finally into her house 1973 was the year that World Bank President Robert McNamara made his Nairobi speech McNamara spoke about absolute poverty quote a condition of life so degrading as to insult human dignity and yet a condition of life so common as to be the lot of forty percent of the peoples of the developing countries 1973 was also the year that the cell phone was invented now on each of these bold ideas an easy way would have said well that's would have been to say well that's too hard that's impossible we can't do that engineers aren't like that the bold ideas of 1973 mobile communications gender equality and ending world poverty inspired a whole generation of scholars practitioners and activists in many many places including at the World Bank where I had the privilege to spend my entire career economic and political rights health education the protection of them and their children have improved for many women in many countries worldwide I am very proud to be a graduate of a university or the provost and the deans of Medicine of law and of engineering are all women social movements though generally take about eighty years for example it was only in 2000 that the Louth political leaders of the world agreed at the United Nations to cut extreme poverty in the world in half by 2015 that we have done but there are still over 1 billion people left in absolute poverty and the world's new goal to fully eradicate it is only 17 years away in short we baby boomers are counting on you the women and man of the class of 2013 to finish all of this important work fortunately in the early 90s mobile communication was joined by the internet something that we engineers invented and that we let everybody else use the internet amplified the forces and voices of globalization and the great progress in improving the human condition that globalization made possible today we can all access including now if we wanted to unimaginable quantities of digitized information with which we can shape our world influence millions of people and measure and monitor the impact of our actions there is a huge opportunity for leadership awaiting every member of this class as engineers of course we calculate risks before we take them and working in a large international organization with large sums of money at risk and complicated development programs I have also been quite prudent because after all we are professionals but in that respect I want to share with you a little advice from Pablo Picasso the Spanish painter he said learn the rules like pro so you can break them like an artist that strikes me as a great motto for engineers who want to make a difference it's also a way that you can invent a future that is different from the past that future will not be without controversy as engineers reshape the world with technology there will be many ethical and social implications I hope therefore that you will not be satisfied by saying oh yeah we can do that but we'll follow that boast by asking yes but should we I hope you will find employment and public sector or the private sector and with a non-profit here in Canada or abroad or in a start-up of your own imagination and effort that will let you say every day I'm in a place where I can do my very best and in this context I'd like tell a little story about the world of work a friend who used to head organization development at a global pharmaceutical company was visiting one of their many sites after seeing the labs and the factory she happened upon the mailroom she entered and the men in the mailroom rose he was sitting at a desk with piles of boxes and he welcomed her good afternoon I cure blindness well she he sensed that she looked a bit puzzled and so he went on to explain at our factory we make ivermectin it's a drug that cures blindness why nas's caused by onchocerciasis which is a disease that people in West Africa get by being infected by a guinea fly which is tranny worm which is transmitted by in up by a fly in the 1970s he say explained World Bank President Robert McNamara visited Africa he was shocked that some of its most productive land couldn't be farmed because there were no people there rather there were very few and they were all blind so Robert McNamara said we need to do something about that and they did retired Vietnam War helicopter pilots were hired to spray the rivers where the Flies lived and ivermectin was later invented and given away free and he said we make it here at this plant and my job here in the mail room is to check that all the shipments and all the labels are correct and that they're properly addressed and that the labels are well attached because if those pills don't get to Africa people will be blind as you join organizations you will be exposed to organizational politics often very discouraging sometimes a bit toxic but please remember that everywhere you will want to work has a noble purpose for this man in the mail room it was curing blindness and it will be something like that I hope for you as you work with people who aren't engineers from the University of Toronto whether they're in the mail room or in the big corner office dealing with office politics help them keep their faith in the big idea to which you and they are all committed I said I would talk today about the future because universities are about the future they're about learning and shifting the boundaries of knowledge of discourse and a possibility as new graduates of this university the future belongs much more to you than to any of us who are further along in our careers and in our law and our years what kind of future can engineers help achieve building on common sense and good judgment a future with smart and connected machines with save technologies with the necessary systems approaches to energy to renewing infrastructure in our cities to climate change in the environment and to public policy and global affairs a bright future that in short is inclusive prosperous secure and sustainable and as engineers you can help build that future volunteering is also about the future it's about that cause or that result of that thing you'd like to see happen it will lead to something better something different from today to be sure it requires a bit more time than clicking like and share on Facebook but that time spent volunteering builds communities and it brings the individuals in them together in a common cause in that respect my work is volunteer at U of T taught me something else that served me well that yes opens more doors than no time after time I have said yes and I've made those countless journeys back to Toronto from all over the world to be part of the life of this great institution these volunteer activities have enriched my life enormously and I have made many many great friends and let me close therefore with this final piece of advice give back often and as often as you can and whenever you're asked to do something unexpected something you hadn't thought of something that might be a little risky or something that you'd need to learn how to do remember your U of T engineer you can do anything and the future is about saying yes again my warmest congratulations on this great event in your lives and thank you very much

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