Education must never stop or slow down, and it must encompass ethics and a sense of giving back to one’s community, said Perrin Beatty, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
Beatty spoke to graduates from King’s University College, the Faculty of Social Science and Faculty of Information and Media Studies at the Thursday, Oct. 31, morning session of Western’s 302nd Convocation.
Western conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa (LL.D.), upon Beatty in recognition of his distinguished political career.
“If equipping young Canadians to keep learning long after graduation is the university’s key contribution, then the next most important must be to help them develop a moral compass to navigate the ethical choices ahead,” Beatty said.
“Today, I want simply to suggest that whatever your career, your most important accountability is to yourself. You can’t delegate your responsibility for your own ethical conduct to someone else. Despite our efforts to bureaucratize morality, the issue is not whether your behaviour fits within a set of guidelines. Regulations will tell you what is permissible; your heart will tell you what is right.”
Beatty holds degrees from Upper Canada College and Western and was once the youngest person to be appointed to a Canadian Cabinet.
A member of Parliament from 1972-93, Beatty served as Minister of State (Treasury Board), Minister of National Revenue and Minister responsible for the Canada Post Corporation, Solicitor General of Canada, Minister of National Defence, Minister of National Health and Welfare, Minister of Communications and Secretary of State for External Affairs.
Following these posts, Beatty came back to Western to teach political science, after which he served as president of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and president and chief executive officer of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters. Since 2007, he has been president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
As Minister of National Revenue, Beatty introduced the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, inspiring subsequent client service work at the Canada Revenue Agency. He is responsible for advancing Canada’s commitment to northern sovereignty, boosting its international negotiations.
During his time at the CBC, he was responsible for helping Canada’s national broadcaster ease into the Internet age.
Beatty told the graduates they would face challenges down the road, but it’s important to stay true to one’s own moral compass.
“My experience in both government and business is that the cheats are soon found out. Nor can you hide in the crowd. The very worst justification for an action is that someone told you, ‘Everyone does things this way.’ If whatever is proposed seems morally wrong to you, it is wrong for you. Walk away,” he said.
In his citation, King’s Political Science professor emeritus Peter Neary said Beatty had a sterling record of achievement.
“Perrin Beatty is known for his broad intelligence, comprehensive knowledge of national and international issues, deep interest in matters technological, and commitment to scholarship and artistic endeavour,” he said.
“Mr. Beatty’s teaching days at Western highlighted his great abilities as a writer and speaker. I was his colleague in this period and can vouch for the enthusiasm with which students welcomed his teaching and his commitment to their well-being. Mr. Beatty is devoted to the progress of learning and is a great supporter of postsecondary education in all its forms,” he added.
“He is a person of strong character and practical idealism – a capable and experienced administrator, a wise thinker about national issues and a most public-spirited Canadian.”
Beatty added students should put their education to use; they must be informed and vote, and they must give back to their communities.
“Today’s graduates live in the most fortunate country in the world and are our best-prepared, best-educated generation. The question is how you will employ the knowledge and the skills you acquired here. How will you take stock 50 years from now? You have every right to use your talents to advance your own well-being. Our educational system is designed to help you do just that. I hope you will set a higher goal for yourselves: to measure your success not by the material possessions you acquire, but by the difference you make. It doesn’t matter what career you choose; there are a thousand ways to contribute.”