Education makes for a powerful connection in the world, among individuals and among all nations, said David Mulroney, Distinguished Senior Fellow at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.
“A big part of my job has involved helping people better understand Canada, and the best way to introduce the Canada we know and love, is to start with universities,” he noted.
Mulroney spoke to graduates from the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Social Science at the Wednesday, June 10 afternoon session of Western’s 305th Convocation.
Western conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa (LLD), upon Mulroney in recognition of his esteemed diplomatic career.
Education is at the heart of his two “seemingly contradictory secrets for happiness and success,” Mulroney told graduates.
The first secret is, “keep the key to the library.” Graduates must think of today not as a conclusion, but rather as a transition.
“A university education makes learning habitual,” he said, giving continuity, meaning and purpose to one’s life. “Encourage your curiosity and deploy your critical faculties. It will give you tremendous advantage in life.”
Mulroney attended Michael’s College School and the University of St. Michael’s College. In the 1980s, he partook in full-time Mandarin training at the Canadian Forces Language School in Ottawa.
As Ambassador of Canada to the People’s Republic of China (2009-12), he strived to identify education as a priority for Canada-China cooperation, and the Canadian embassy came to be known by Chinese officials as an “education embassy.”
Earlier this year, Mulroney released a book on Canada-China relations, Middle Power, Middle Kingdom. He also co-authored Canada’s Asia Challenge: Creating Competence for the Next Generation of Canadians, a report published in 2013 by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada.
Mulroney also served in the Privy Council Office in Ottawa as the Deputy Minister responsible for the Afghanistan Task Force, overseeing inter-departmental coordination of all aspects of Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan. He also served as Secretary to the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan.
Today, he is also a Distinguished Fellow of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, and an Honorary Fellow of the University of St. Michael’s College. Mulroney will become the President and Vice Chancellor of St. Michael’s on July 1.
Talk to people, seek truth in facts and maintain a connection to the intellectual community that offers a reprieve from the dreariness of life, he encouraged graduates.
Other roles Mulroney has occupied include Associate Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Prime Minister’s Personal Representative to the G8 Summit and Foreign and Defence Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister of Canada. He served on overseas assignments in Taipei, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai and Seoul. From 1995-98, he was executive director of the Canada-China Business Council.
Mulroney is among the recipients of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal and a recipient of the University of Toronto’s Arbor Award.
In his citation, Department of Surgery Chair John Denstedt spoke of Mulroney’s three decades spent bridging Canada with countries around the globe.
“Thanks to his tireless efforts, the ambassador role in China is now considered Canada’s second most important Foreign Service post, behind that of the United States. Mr. Mulroney’s impact in bringing together high-ranking Chinese and Canadian leaders has transformed a ‘cold’ relationship into one where the Prime Minister was offered, and accepted, a pair of pandas on a 10-year loan as a symbol of the deepening ties of friendship between our countries,” Denstedt said.
“Mr. Mulroney is an ideal role model for our graduates today. Dedicated to international cooperation, peace, and prosperity for all citizens, Mr. Mulroney has strengthened relationships on behalf of our great country both individually and at the highest levels of government around the globe.”
The second secret to success and happiness is to know who you are and what you stand for, Mulroney added.
“Be tolerant and open minded,” he said. “But think clearly and carefully about the things that define you. You can’t abandon to the pressures of popular opinion or yield to power or money.”
Also during the ceremony, the Distinguished University Professor award was presented to Chemistry professor T.K. Sham.