Address to Students and Faculty at Ho Chi Minh City University of Industry (Vietnam)
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Friday, November 18, 2011
Thank you for giving me such a warm welcome to this wonderful institution of higher learning. I am delighted to be here and to learn more about your vision for the future.
Allow me to offer my congratulations to the graduating class. I was also pleased to hear that you will be celebrating “National Teachers’ Day” on November 20. If you remember nothing else about my remarks today, remember this: we must cherish our teachers, because they have taken it upon themselves to instruct, inspire and challenge us. Anyone who has achieved any degree of success in their lives can point to the teachers and mentors who have helped them along the way.
Let me begin with a few words on diplomacy. For decades, the people of Canada and Vietnam have enjoyed strong and friendly relations in many areas. That includes the important sphere of post-secondary education—particularly, in the case of this university, through your long-standing partnership with the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology.
Allow me to elaborate for a moment on this remarkable collaboration, which is a model for student and faculty exchange between our two nations. Hundreds of graduates from the SIAST Business Administration program are now helping Vietnam to develop its knowledge-based economy, and a number of students have gone on to further studies in Canada.
This program is a wonderful example of the good things that can happen when people come together across borders to learn together. I like to call this the diplomacy of knowledge, and I applaud each of the students, faculty and administrative leaders whose hard work and dedication are behind this success.
I am also pleased to note the success of several other partnerships between Canadian schools and institutions in Vietnam, and the prospect of more to come. Just last month, 70 Canadian educational institutions participated in the 3rd Canada Education Week in Vietnam, and there is a steady increase in the number of Vietnamese students who choose to study in Canada.
We are thrilled to welcome one and all, because one thing is certain: our future success as nations will be rooted in our commitment to learning and in the strength we derive from diversity.
I would like to take a moment to make a special mention of the parents and guardians of those students who have enrolled in and graduated from this program. It is difficult for me to fully convey my respect and admiration for the foresight you have shown in supporting your child’s learning. As the father of five daughters, who together have taught me so much about the ways of the world, I have seen first-hand the positive impact that education has on our children and, by extension, on our communities.
All five of my daughters began international exchanges at the age of 12. They are proud Canadians, but they are also citizens of the world. These experiences have helped them become more tolerant and respectful of diversity and difference, and better critical thinkers in the best sense.
As you can see, I have a deep love of learning, and I believe in the universal power of education to change lives for the better. In fact, prior to becoming governor general, I spent the bulk of my life in school, as a student, an educator and, most recently, as a university vice-chancellor for almost 27 years. Few people today would disagree that a highly educated nation is a civic and prosperous one, and in the interconnected world of the 21st century, where our social, economic and environmental ties are so important, there can be no true education in isolation.
A smart nation learns from the past, embraces the future and looks to the world with confidence and respect. The diplomacy of knowledge works on many levels—local, regional, national, international—and when we achieve the right mixture of communication, expertise and creativity, remarkable things can happen.
Knowing this, how should we proceed?
In today’s world, leading educational institutions are at the forefront of several key frontiers:
Universities can and must be leaders in fostering collaboration at all levels. Our aim must be to differentiate ourselves by developing and building on local strengths and expertise, while constantly seeking new partnerships and opportunities further afield and internationally. We must be strategic and we must work collaboratively in sharing specific needs and goals and in planning for the mid- to long-term future.
To do this effectively, universities must understand the dynamics of the 21st-century knowledge economy, and this is where your business program is so valuable. The best way to enhance knowledge is to share it widely, which is why the development of creative clusters is so important. I often like to illustrate this by pointing to the crest of the coat of arms I was granted upon becoming governor general, which features the image of a burning candle. In Thomas Jefferson’s wonderful phrasing, the flame symbolizes not only enlightenment, but also the transmission of knowledge from one person to another. By learning and by sharing what we know, we collectively strengthen and enlighten our communities and our country.
Finally, universities must rededicate themselves to their role in transmitting the civilization of the past to that of the future, in order to ensure that the traditions and cultures that constitute our unique contribution to the world are understood and respected. And within the university itself, we must never lose sight of our commitment to academic freedom and learning for its own sake.
At this point we may ask ourselves: what is the common thread that unites these various learning frontiers into a single horizon? The answer, I believe, is communication.
The revolution in global communications introduces new possibilities for dialogue and makes knowledge accessible as never before. Remember, it took three centuries for the printing press in Western Europe to reach a majority of its population, whereas the Internet needed only a decade from 1995 to reach a majority of the world’s population. This means that we need not be in the physical, financial or population centres to succeed. It does, however, make it imperative for us to redouble our efforts to reach out and communicate, both with our neighbours and partners at home, and internationally.
Our experience in Canada has also taught us that communications can be a powerful tool in uniting people of differing backgrounds across vast distances, and a similar effect can be observed today across international borders.
Communications is the vehicle for our diplomacy of knowledge, and those who are adept at exploiting and enhancing our ability to communicate will be leaders in the 21st century.
With this in mind, let us continue to work together to build the smarter, more caring world of which we dream.