Royal Military College Convocation

May 16, 2024

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As commander-in-chief, I am so pleased to be with you today. While I am extremely honoured to be receiving this degree, I am also very happy to be celebrating this important convocation moment with all of you.

Today, we are gathered on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe and Huron-Wendat peoples.

It’s important to include the voices of our First Peoples. When we acknowledge the full history of this country, we are walking the path of reconciliation.

Reconciliation is a lifelong journey that can impact everything we do. It is our collective responsibility. As you serve your country, I invite you to consider how you can include reconciliation in the work you do.

Today, we are celebrating all that you have accomplished here at the Royal Military College.

Tomorrow, you will receive your commission as officers of the Canadian Armed Forces because you have demonstrated the capacity, competence and courage to command, lead and look after those under your responsibility.

From here, you will begin your new lives, applying what you have learned to your new roles in the Canadian Armed Forces. You all have bright futures ahead of you.  

Many of you will deploy abroad on a number of missions. In Latvia, for example, alongside our NATO allies. Or you will be part of the response to international disasters or conflicts, representing our country with honour and distinction.

You may also be called on to provide much-needed support at home, when Canadians need you the most.

For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, soldiers were deployed to help residents of long-term care and retirement homes. Last year, CAF members were called in record numbers to support provinces in the fight against devastating forest fires and floods. Most recently, military doctors and nurses arrived in Yukon to help support staff in delivering health care services.

In each of these cases, we see that the life of a Canadian Armed Forces member is about service to communities, both at home and abroad.

Let me share with you three truths I have learned, to help you along your way.

First, find what you love, what resonates with you, what drives you at your core. 

During your time here, I hope you discovered what sparked your passion. Search out those mentors who share your interests and be inspired by them. As well, remember to reassess your priorities over time—it’s natural for those to shift. Seek out new opportunities to learn, grow and understand. This will lead to a life rich in purpose and joy.

Second, engage respectfully with others.

There will always be those who hold views different from your own. We must find ways to speak with, understand and respect each other. I am inspired by your generation. More than previous generations, you respect the need for reconciliation and diversity. Every day, I hear stories of youth who can inspire us all. Never pass up an opportunity to learn from those who came before you or from those with different ideas and stories than you. Pass on your knowledge to those who will come after.

Third, never doubt your power to create change. Build a culture of safety, equality, openness and acceptance.

We are proud of the members of the Canadian Armed Forces and all that they do for Canada. Yet, we also recognize that change is needed to make a safer, more secure environment for everyone. Never doubt your own power to be part of the change that you want to see. I know you will make progress towards equality and safety. 

While you undertake your important roles, be mindful to look after yourselves. We know that physical health and mental health are connected. A decline in one can have a great impact on the other. Remember too that demonstrating understanding and empathy can have a direct impact on those who struggle.

I want to leave you with one word from my mother tongue, Inuktitut: the word is ajuinnata.

This word has great meaning to me and to Inuit. It means to never give up. To persevere in the face of adversity. 

No matter where you end up, live your lives with ajuinnata, and remember to:

Serve with integrity.

Face adversity with courage and hope.

Always strive for excellence.

Congratulations once again on all your success. Your family and friends are proud of you, and so am I.

I thank you for inviting me to join you today and for this honour. This is a moment I will truly cherish.