Trent Report Online

Embrace leadership role, grads told

Alanis ObomsawinTrent graduates should cherish their role as the future leaders of Canada, writer and filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin told them during convocation ceremonies.

One of two recipients of an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, Obomsawin described graduation as "one of the most important days of your life. You have obtained a high level of education." This would serve not only the graduates, but also the country as a whole, she said.

"The seed of discouragement is dangerous without support and love in your surroundings. It is difficult to get to the finish line when the courage is gone. But you have made it."

She told graduates that, as they go on in life they should "try to keep an open circle so that you don't alienate anyone and most of all give your children a sense of belonging, a sense of independence, and a sense of generosity. I wish for life in our country without hate."

Recognized for her work in exploring social issues that help define life for aboriginal peoples in Canada, Obomsawin said it has been 40 years since she decided to fight for social change and inclusion of the "real history of our people and our country in the school system."

"I also thought I could contribute to these changes by being in the classroom to address children and students of all ages. My feelings continue to be the same. Over the years I have seen much progress and many significant transformations in regard to our people's achievement in our education system."

Cultural studies professor Suzie Young welcomed Obomsawin, calling her an advocate for the disenfranchised. "She defies established power not with hostility but with compassion. Her films make us recognize what we are capable of, the dissent into barbarism as well as the rise to community if we put into practice the good that we know."

Obomsawin's films don't "invite us to live in the past or to dwell upon the infinitude of injustice. Instead they insist upon justice now and on hope for the future. They have faith in and respect for what each person can do to eliminate the prisons that are everywhere within our liberty."

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Last updated: June 23, 2000