A TRANSFORMATION FROM
“BECAUSE I WANT TO” TO “BECAUSE WE MUST”
Mr. Chancellor, Mr. President, members of KPU Foundation and to the students of KPU.
Today you have taken your shining light out from under the table and put it on top of the table for your community, our Province, Canada and all the world to see.
I consider it an honour and a privilege to be able to speak with you today and to share with you my basic reasons behind “your shining light.” In the past, when I’ve talked about why I’ve made particular contributions, my standard explanation has always been “because I want to”. Today, I want to share with you my thoughts and realization process that have led me to change that standard explanation to “because we must.”
Now, to tell you the simple truth of it all, most of you know that I have a very focused young lady by the name of “Beth.” She looks after me well beyond the call of duty. Now what I believe happens is that when she thinks I start coasting in my thinking and my actions, she introduces me to one of her Grand Forks individuals so as to have the effect of giving me a shot of adrenalin. The first injection I got was a Peter Podovinikoff and that was some years ago. I must admit it works because Peter has been a very great energizer to me – and I thank him very much for this.
But about a year ago, I got yet another shot of adrenalin when I met Peter Rezansoff. Now this Peter is the founder of ITC Construction Group – the builder of many of the high-rise apartments and condos we see around town. In one of our first discussions, he made the statement that it is fine to think worldwide, but you must first look after “your own back yard.” A very interesting set of discussions developed from that simple first comment – “What is going on globally?” – led to other questions: “How does that affect Canada?” Then: “How do those global transformations affect our province?” And then, “What is the impact on our region or our dot?” What also followed was the notion that if you are going to do something, first start it locally or regionally, then carry on provincially and then go Canada-wide. In other words start with your own back yard first.
That order of mental discipline has been a source of satisfaction – at least to me. It is my observation that Canada, our province and some, if not all, of our regions are starting to see the global impact of a shift to the Asian influence in a number of ways. Perhaps the first is a shift in the cultural mix from a historical European influence to an Asian influence. A few weeks ago, The Vancouver Sun ran a full page description of the population shifts expected by 2030, illustrating a significant increase in the Asian culture compared to historic European cultures. I think it even went so far as to say that the European culture could be in the minority by 2030. With this culture shift we are also seeing a significant shift in the financial community as well. By North American standards, measuring debt or borrowing in trillions of dollars is now almost common place. The closing comments are also getting to be common place – “borrow from China” and we are all aware of the importance of “knowing who your banker is” or keeping your credit card onside.
But let us look at the educational levels or standards that exist in these growing areas of influence. I think it is a generally accepted perception that in many parts of China and some cases India the level of intensity in education could be higher than ours. My point is that if we as Canada and the province of British Columbia want to continue our standard of living and in so doing sustain the shift of our “bankers” and to a growing extent the ownership of our natural resources, then we must undertake as a society the obligation to provide the “spike of excellence” or at least a “baby spike of excellence” so as to bring our educational level up to the world standard or better, so that our children and their children are best or equally equipped to deal with whatever we leave behind today.
So that is the impact of the global shift and its translation back into our own back yard – and to apply Peter’s simple principle – what are we doing about it in our own back yard?
To be specific, there are four main reasons that have convinced me to step forward and support KPU’s educational opportunities initiative. Let me set them out for you.
First – again about a year ago I met with your Chancellor Arvinder Bubber and he identified to me his concerns. He explained that the South Asian community across Canada was increasing, but the concentration was predominately in two areas – in Toronto and in the Lower Mainland of BC. He also identified that the dropout rate was higher than the general average. This really struck a chord with me.
With this shot of adrenalin – I ended up concluding that yes he was correct – but there were perhaps two sectors of our society – yes one is the South Asian community, but the other significant pool of dropouts is in our Aboriginal community – but this is not a concentrated dot – but spread across our province – and because of this, it needs a different approach. It is just as serious, but is a topic for another day.
The next man to convince me to step forward to support the initiative was your President David Atkinson. When I visited KPU’s four campuses some time ago, I came away very impressed with the multitude of things that each campus was focused on in terms of providing career opportunities for students, in comparison to the more research-intensive universities.
In our sum-up meeting with your President I made the concluding comment that I didn’t understand or was not aware of all that KPU was doing. I said, “You have a bright shining light for our society, but the light is under the table. You should bring it out and set it on top of the table so as to provide better awareness and motivation.” The announcement today puts this light on top of the table.
But the other convincing comment I heard from your President was – and these are my interpretations, not his – “Let me get on with what I know needs doing – don’t distract me with a lot on non-productive administration action. Let me fix my own dot – don’t distract me.” And upon reflection, how correct your President is. It is a matter of judgment – there is a time to concentrate on fixing you own dot. There is a time when there is a chemistry to provide a bridge between the dots – but don’t confuse them.
Another thing that convinced me this was a good decision to make occurred when I visited this campus and we had a meeting in your new library where your academic staff outlined their activities. Sitting across from me was a young lady named Dalisha Dyal and I asked her, “Just what did this program do for you?” She looked straight at me and said, “The most important thing is that it gave me confidence in myself.” The effect was like a “clap of thunder” because it brought us all back to reality – because Dalisha identified reality. The most important point of the educational system is to instil the internal factors of confidence – pride – courage. They keep coming up time and time again.
So I asked Dalisha, “What do you want to do when you graduate?” She said she would like to be a lawyer. I told her – “Well, I have had a lawyer all my life but he got old, grey and has retired, so now I have a new young lawyer and his name is Mandeep Daliwal.” And Mandeep, you are here today so would you please go over after the ceremony finishes and introduce yourself to Dalisha. You see Dalisha – “with confidence and courage it can be made to happen.”
And now for the last of my motivating reasons. As I stand before you, I must confess that I am the product of a high school dropout at grade 11 – but I got a second chance to re-enter the education process. It was only due to contributing factors from World War II that I was able to land on UBC’s doorstep with a grade 11 qualification and they let me in. The result of that has had a significant positive influence through to this very day – some 60 years after graduation.
So that is my story of how I got to “Because We Must.” I recognize that the specific application of this Endowment for Educational Opportunities will be somewhat subjective, but I am also totally confident the dedication and direction of KPU’s existing management and administration will transcend into future management and administrations. To assist this process we will be unveiling a plaque – which will be on prominent display on all four campuses of KPU, which sets out the Founding Intent of this shining light – the Irving K. Barber Endowment for Educational Opportunities. I look forward to the opportunity at some future date to come back and say “I am glad I did.”
Thank you all.