Speeches: 2011 Valedictorian Speech

A lovely friend suggested I share some of my speeches that I have shared over the years.  I don't often write down a script, but here are some that I have dug up from my archives. I hope you enjoy...


University of Queensland's Class of 2011 Engineering Graduation, 2011 


Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, members of Senate, Professor Robin Batterham AO, academic staff of the university, distinguished guests, fellow graduates, ladies and gentlemen.

It is amazing that only a few years ago many of us were living quite a different life – graduating high school, working or travelling; excited about beginning university but unaware of the journey that lay ahead of us. Yet here we are, graduating as professionals in our field. I am honoured to be standing in front of you here today and I can only wonder what we as a group will achieve in the years to come.

It is often repeated, but never quite enough – we would have never been able to do it without our support networks. Our parents deserve a special thank you – raising children can be a thankless task, but they have given us a part of their lives and without them, we truly wouldn’t be here. So for all mum and dads, thank you. Although mum, I probably still will be reluctant to do the dishes!

Secondly, thank you to the university and the many lecturers and professors who have taught and guided us over the years. Although many of us may have been a little frustrated at the workload at times, cursed late nights and early mornings in labs and ate way too much from the vending machines, the lessons you have taught us – from structural mechanics to sketching to the very concept of problem solving – these are lessons that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. Furthermore, the support staff deserve every recognition; dealing with our questions daily cannot be easy but they have been kindly patient with us, and bring a little bit of joy into every interaction!

Last but not least... fellow graduates. Without you, it would never have happened. Even for the most prepared – or perhaps unprepared student – without working and learning from each other, our university experience wouldn’t be nearly the life changing experience that it was.

As exciting as it is to have the honour and pleasure of graduating, it is also important to remember and realise the capacity of what we now have.

We live in a time of great change and development, this we all know. What we don’t often realise or acknowledge however, is the power of the technical mind in these times. Every generation of technical minds is faced with a number of grand challenges, issues that will confront the cohort across disciplines and are to be addressed for the greater good. For some of us, that challenge will be energy. Conserving it, reducing the demand for it, finding alternatives or making more of it – the future remains unseen. For others, it will be something different. Find that something different. Our technical minds thirst for challenges, and so if you can find yours – your grand challenge, you can fulfil not only your own personal goals, but also play a meaningful role in contributing tangibly to society.

Truth is, I was apprehensive the day I walked into UQ, and I’m a little apprehensive walking out because I have no idea what is next. But you know, fellow grads, we made it. We beat the odds and got here. Let us not forget why we came. Let us revel in what we have now received – the capacity and responsibility to influence our environment and leave a legacy, and to choose what that legacy is.

To paraphrase Dr Suess: We have brains in our head/We have feet in our shoes/ We can steer ourselves in any direction we choose. We are on our own/We know what we know/We are the ones who’ll decide where to go.