Pierre J. Jeanniot
Address by Pierre J. Jeanniot
McGill University, 29 May 2006 >>
Chancellor Mr. Richard Pound
Principle and Vice-Chancellor Professor Heather Munroe-Bloom
Dean of the Faculty of Management Professor Peter Todd
Distinguished members of the Faculty
Distinguished guests and family members
To say that I am overwhelmed by this great honor is somewhat of an understatement!
Je dois vous avouer, Madame le Recteur, que votre proposition de me propulser à un tel sommet m’a donné quelque peu le vertige.
But as a man who is afraid of heights I have to remain modest.
Upon being informed of this honor I experienced a rather strange feeling which could best be described as a mixture of humility and of collective gratitude on behalf of the many highly competent collaborators who worked with me over the years and who richly deserve to share in this special moment.
My mind flashed back to the early 1960’s at which time I was attending night courses at this venerable University in the vain hope of obtaining a Masters in Commerce (the MBA did not yet exist at McGill).
I say vain hope because I had just discovered that McGill had a policy of not granting a Masters Degree to any student unless he or she was able to attend the University for at least six months on a full day-time basis.
Needless to say that with three young children and a fledgling career this was for me impossible.
I had developed a friendly relation with a fellow student a man in his mid fifties who was taking the same three courses I had selected that year. On many occasions we would go to a local coffee house following the lecture at around 1015 p.m. to share a grilled cheese and a coffee.
On one of those evenings as I complained bitterly about McGill’s archaic policy I was surprised to hear my companion vigorously defend McGill’s position advancing arguments as to why the policy was appropriate.
“Why would you be defending McGill?” I said somewhat puzzled.
Well he said “I have to after all I am the Dean of the Commerce Faculty!” He then explained that having graduated some 30 years earlier he felt that he needed to refresh his knowledge on the subjects now being taught.
That was Dean Eric Kierans and in spite of his views we did remain friends.
A short while later at the same coffee house I witnessed René Levesque then a member of the Lesage Government and involved in the Québec “Quiet Revolution” convincing Eric Kierans to join the Liberal Government which he did as Minister of Finance.
The unfolding of the “Revolution Tranquille” was an exciting time in this province and at the end of that decade the 60’s I found myself deeply involved in bringing about the network of the “Université du Québec”. A few of us were given nine months to start four campuses and accommodate some 14,000 students.
A lot of water has passed under a great many bridges since those days.
Today I want to extend my warmest congratulations to each of you today’s Graduates for the very significant milestone you are reaching at this time.
This is the crowning achievement of many years of effort and dedication and you can be justifiably proud of your accomplishment.
McGill is a great a world-renowned University and as one of its Graduates each of you now has the demanding responsibility of living up to that great reputation.
You belong to a privileged group by talent of course and by hard work but also privileged to some extent perhaps by geography or by birth or social class and background.
What you have been able to achieve is a product of our democratic environment one that promotes and fosters equality of opportunity for all regardless of origin sex or religion.
an environment which appreciates differences rather than fights to eliminate them
an environment of mutual respect and tolerance where the only thing that must not be tolerated is intolerance itself.
Only a true democratic environment one that values freedom of expression equality of chances protection of human rights can ensure on a worldwide basis the continued progression of the human race
a continued progression in reducing the level of poverty and in steadily raising the standard of living and the quality of life of every human being.
In the context of the evolution of mankind democracy is still a relatively new phenomenon a fragile and still imperfect institution which needs to be nurtured protected and enhanced.
I would suggest that you now share the responsibility of participating in that objective.
You have now acquired a great deal of knowledge which I am sure. you are all anxious to apply in practice.
Yogi Bera was once asked whether in baseball there was much difference between the theory. and the practice.
Having thought for a minute Yogi replied “well in theory there is no difference but in practice there is.”
Le Prince de Talleyrand a French Diplomat who had managed to keep an important role before during and after the French Revolution was fond of saying
“Il y a à mon avis trois sortes de savoir. There are three types of savoir; knowledge, savoir per se, savoir-vivre, et savoir-faire. All three he felt were equally important.”
Sans offense à Talleyrand je me permettrais d’ajouter un quatrième le savoir dire compte tenu de l’importance que l’art de communiquer occupe dans l’exercice de leadership.
Many of you have the potential and no doubt the aspiration to become leaders The current diploma gives you a good start.
But leadership is not something that you can impose on anyone.
Leadership is something that others give you recognize in you It has to be earned.
Leadership requires vision an ability to clearly communicate that vision and to inspire and motivate others to accomplish that vision.
If you communicate well people will listen to you but they will watch you even more closely. “You need to walk the talk” as they say.
Progress can only be accomplished if the status quo is challenged.
One needs to encourage an environment that is open to new ideas Fostering entrepreneurial spirit demands an acceptance of risk and acceptance of its consequences.
This needs courage.
As André Gide a great French writer of the last century once said “One cannot discover new land without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a long time.”
One final observation I would like to share is the need for each of you to find the right balance in the quality of life and the evolution of your role as a useful and contributing member of society.
Each of us has substantially benefited from society in general wherever we have come from.
I would suggest that as opportunities occur we have an obligation to give back to society in money or in kind for the benefit of those that will follow us.
Of course wealth can be re-distributed only if more wealth can be created and in those societies whose misguided policies have succeeded in destroying the incentive to generate personal wealth the result unfortunately has simply lead to a sharing of poverty and to mediocrity.
At the other extreme some people seem to enjoy playing a game called “He who accumulates the most money by the time he dies wins” that is if he does not land up in jail!
Well wealth is indeed a measure of success but wealth is essentially an enabler not an end in itself and fairly meaningless if not directed at increasing the quality of life yours of course since “charité bien ordonné commence par soi-même” but also that of society in general.
Thus since you can’t take it with you should you be fortunate to acquire a fair bit of wealth you might as well plan to make a generous donation to your Alumni Endowment Fund!
That’s my commercial for McGill!
Frankly dear Graduates I envy you.
The current dynamics of our economic environment are very exciting, full of challenges, and full of opportunities The possibilities are virtually unlimited in this rapidly changing world, where transportation and communication networks are truly bringing about the global village..
I am sure you already know that nothing really worthwhile can be achieved without hard work strong desire and a great deal of dedication and a substantial amount of good luck always helps.
But I will let you into a little secret “I found out that the harder I worked, the luckier I got!”.
And you may run into two kinds of people those who work hard and enjoy accomplishing things and those who do not work quite as hard but always try to get the credit for what others are doing.
Join the first group, its less crowded!
I wish each and every one of you,
much success in your respective careers.
De nouveau Monsieur le Chancelier Madame le Recteur je tiens à vous réitérer ainsi qu’à l’Université de McGill toute ma gratitude pour ce témoignage qui m’a profondément touché.
Thank you merci.