Paul St. Pierre is the first person to receive an honorary doctorate from Thompson Rivers University, Williams Lake campus, an honour he received during the 2012 convocation held May 25.
“It’s the first time we’ve given one out from this campus. It’s very significant,” TRU president and vice-chancellor Dr. Alan Shaver told the Tribune.
St. Pierre received two standing ovations — one when he received the doctorate and certificate, another when he finished giving his address to the graduates.
“His achievements have been both relative and appropriate to TRU. He embodies TRU’s commitment to community, diversity and citizenship. It gives TRU great pleasure to give Paul St. Pierre the degree of doctor of letters,” director Dr. Ray Sanders said after outlining St. Pierre’s numerous achievements as a journalist, author, former member of parliament, police commissioner, activist and television writer.
It’s an honour to receive a doctorate from the university that represents the Chilcotin and Cariboo, St. Pierre said as he pointed his remarks to the students.
“You are the ones that are riding on the swinging gates of history,” he said. “That gate is swinging more rapidly than on many other occasions in history. It’s not enough to say they’re a new generation; of course they are. If there were no new generations we’d still be with William the Conqueror and the times before him.”
This generation is facing a particular challenge — the days of muscular labour are gone for mankind, he suggested, saying it doesn’t matter if someone is as strong as two bulls.
“The same goes for your power of skills with your hands. That’s passed.”
There are very few things now that humans can do as well as robots do, he said.
“We’re being narrowed down to education, yes and no. Education is certainly going to be the next springboard into the new world we’re going into. I don’t know what that world is — don’t ask me. I’m not smart enough. But it is going to be very different than the world is now.”
The only advice he said he could give was that the students should be prepared and ready for the change.
“Don’t fall into the trap, which I and many other people like me did, of thinking there’s a superiority of the left side of the brain because it is scientific and can be shown by experiment to be correct time and time again.”
It may be so, but there is also in the right side of the brain the capacity to get you off the train tracks when the train’s coming.
“Different parts of the brain operate at different times and in different ways. Don’t be ashamed of either of them.”
For about 30 or 40 years of television made a change.
“Television, for reasons I cannot imagine, appeals to the right-hand side of the brain. The impulsive, all-seeing side of the brain. Television is now on its last legs. We have moved over into the Internet.”
“You should expect to go through your life making frequent changes, even revolutionary ones. A few lucky ones among you will happen to choose a profession that will last your working life, but that will be very few of you.”
Suggesting that the students are entering a time when the power of democracy is being lessened, and society is not “fast-moving” in its political life, St. Pierre said more and more people are not committed to any political party. Half of the people are not voting anymore and that’s a very bad sign.
“I don’t know what the results are going to be. I’m here as a person who feels that we’re teetering on the edge of a new way of thinking, a new way of conducting politics, a new way governing ourselves, a new way, even of marrying, and I must say I regret that one, because I still happen to believe that marriage is the best institution that mankind has ever developed.”
One of the districts in the United States has now introduced 15-year marriages.
“At the end of that time, you make up your mind whether you want to get married for another five, 10 or 15 years or you call it off. I don’t welcome that, but if you’re thinking the right way you should be able to grapple with it and come out with your own answers.”
Wishing the graduates all the best in their careers, he said some of them will amaze everybody with their grasp of things.
“Keep in mind, one of the best-known major figures of my time, Albert Einstein. He was not particularly bright; we tend to forget that. He never finished high school and his teachers were to some doubt as to whether he would ever make it,” St. Pierre pointed out.
Einstein had a tremendous right vision of what the world could and should be, St. Pierre said.
He said more than once that his vision of the new world, the well-known expression, e equals mc squared, came to him in a vision.
After having the vision, and seeing the answer, he spent 40 years trying to prove it.
“That’s kind of the world you’re going into. Best of luck and remember one thing: the ordinary, common man, ordinary in every way, is far, far more important than we give him credit for. The common man is a very decent citizen. And unless the pendulum’s going to swing really far, too far that there’s going to be blood in the streets, but if it doesn’t swing too far then you can depend on the common man to preserve you where the most brilliant people are not doing so.”