“I hope you dance in your own way - do what you do well; when faced with opportunity or choices make good choices to make the world a better place; and do not worry about how you compare to others.”

That was the message Dr. Lisa Aultman-Hall, professor and chair of systems design engineering shared in her convocation address to the graduating class of 2023. Her speech was inspired by the three of the many convocations she’s attended for family and friends, and throughout her career in academia.

The first was a dance performance by Evelyn Hart, principal dancer in the Royal Winnipeg Ballet at a convocation ceremony in 1989.

The next speaker was Harry Belafonte, who received an honourary degree from McMaster University at her PhD graduation in 1996. Aultman-Hall thought of Belafonte’s speech often, keeping a transcription nearby to consider his message about making good decisions at each fork in the road. She offers a new definition for success is seeing the need and the opportunity to make a difference in the places where you actually find yourself.

The last speaker Aultman-Hall referenced was Samantha Power, Ambassador to the United Nations under the Obama administration at the University of Vermont. The lesson Power shared from having a seat at many important tables is to never compare the inside of yourself to the outside of anyone else.  

To conclude, Aultman-Hall offered a metaphor to understand the complex problems facing our world and how the new graduates can contribute to their solution. We are on a ship together, each with an oar to propel us through stormy seas. Everyone is rowing in different directions with oars of many shapes and sizes. But every oar matters, “because even when one person may seem famous or like they have done something great, rest assured that all of the truly great things really take a village, it takes a team,” said Aultman-Hall.

Congratulations to the graduating class of 2023!

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