Dear Graduating Class of 2020:
You have entered a time in history that is like no other that I can remember in my lifetime. Uncertainty abounds in the midst of a global pandemic that continues to grip the world. The political situation of the globe is volatile. And the conditions of planetary existence itself are at stake as climate change and environmental degradation shake the world.
It will be you, this generation of leaders, thinkers, and knowledge creators that will be put upon to address a world you did not make but inherit. It is our greatest hope that the skills, knowledge, training, and experiences you have received during your time with us in the Graduate Program of Education at York university can and will be a support to you along the way.
One thing that is certain throughout the crises we face: is the need to study, learn, examine and seek out knowledge of the unknown. We can see that researching is an imperfect endeavor and that evidence is forthcoming when considering new findings: like the need to wear masks or social distancing during this time. We follow the science knowing research requires endurance. Thinking asks us to sustain our attention to inquiry. Forging new ways to consider new and old problems requires being willing to admit from and learn from mistakes. And so we try, try again, with new questions, and different ways to tackle ongoing and pressing problems.
Like so many of you I am the first in my family to achieve graduate levels of education. I am the very first woman in a long line of strong, smart, brave women to hold a doctorate degree. I know the meaning and significance that education holds for so many of us, how it can be a life-raft, and how so very grateful we are for our families, friends and teachers for believing in us along the way.
I urge you all to use your education, which is the special power of scholars, thinkers, and teachers, in pursuit and service of truth, justice and a fair world. Now more than ever it is so critical to wonder and ask questions, to study, read, write, speak, and act for the un/common good and wellbeing, to try to intervene in social hatred, inequality, injustice, and environmental degradation, and, above all, to take responsibility for children and all the generations, particularly the vulnerable and elderly, wherever, whenever, however we can.
York University’s motto is “the way must be tried.” Tentanda via. It is an idea, a demand, a hope that we all need more than ever today. Let these words carry you from here to the world that awaits you, your unique orientations, your creative approaches, the things that you know, and those you have yet to learn. We, your professors, colleagues and classmates, at York University are so very proud of all you have accomplished in your time with us. It is my view that at a time when politics is failing, we still can count on education, on pedagogy in all its many forms. Reading, thinking, speaking, bearing witness to, acting on, and writing can sustain our (in)human condition. Education sustains all livings thing from the tiniest plant to the largest ocean, throughout the generations, to regenerate our fragile and fraught but always thriving existence. We wish you all the best in what we know you can do and be: which is whatever you dream, want, and strive to be. And we look forward to hearing about all of it. Our big congratulations to you as go in the world and try the way.
Address given on the occasion of Convocation by Aparna Mishra Tarc, Associate Professor, Graduate Program Director, Graduate Program in Education on October 28, 2020 at York University, Toronto, via Zoom