“I envy you. Because you are at the beginning of the adventure.”
Those were the words of award-winning journalist Murray Brewster as he addressed more than 900 new graduates from Niagara College’s schools of Media, Trades and Technology on June 23.
For Brewster, it was the first return to his alma mater since he graduated from the College’s Broadcasting: Radio, Television and Film program in 1985. Since then, the Welland native – who grew up just a few blocks away from campus – built a successful career in broadcasting and print journalism which has taken him all over the world, including 15 months in Afghanistan travelling with troops during the five-year Kandahar combat mission. That experience was the subject of his book, The Savage War: The Untold Battles of Afghanistan, (2011), and he was the lead writer on the documentary Kandahar Journals.
After more than a decade at The Canadian Press, Brewster moved on to his current position at CBC News in Ottawa last year, where he is a senior parliamentary defence and foreign policy writer. Here, he has come to appreciate the insight of his new, younger colleagues in the newsroom.
Brewster told the young graduates, as they enter their careers, not to assume that experienced, well-travelled journalists like himself have all the answers.
“There is so much I can learn from you. And there is so much you can teach me – and my generation,” he said.
Brewster encouraged the new graduates to not give into the anger, the cynicism, the intolerance and ugliness that is prevalent in the world.
“If there is one thing my generation has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt is that the greater our knowledge has become, the more our ignorance has shown itself,” he said. “Just hold onto the person you are today. Don’t let go of the optimism and passion that brought you to this moment.”
He told them that “people will judge you more for the content of your character than the content of your resume.” He advised them to never be afraid to speak their minds or stand up for what is right, oppose for the sake of opposing, or find fault in someone else’s argument without offering an alternative.
“Remember, civility is not a sign of weakness.”
His major pearl of wisdom to the graduates: “Don’t feed the trolls,” he said, referring to those who intentionally cause disruption and argument on social media.
Brewster told the young graduates that his generation is depending on them to do the right thing, fix their mistakes, and not make too many of their own. He said he looked forward to hearing their insight and seeing the world through their eyes.
“I look forward to you proving that respect for diversity is truly a strength and not a political slogan,” he said. “I look forward to you creating a world where strength is paired with wisdom.
“In other words: I look forward to you not feeding the trolls.”
Brewster received a Distinguished Alumni Award during the ceremony.
The event capped off 2017 Spring Convocation Ceremonies at Niagara College which celebrated more than 4,600 new graduates – a record number—from June 20 to 23 at the Welland Campus.
The ceremonies kicked off on June 20 with speaker, Patrick Whalen, director of The Global Tourism Institute at Niagara University, who received an Honorary Diploma in Tourism Management. On June 21, former deputy minister and Deborah Newman, distinguished visiting professor, Ryerson University addressed graduates at the morning ceremony; and John Ferguson, CEO and president of Purolator Courier addressed graduates in the afternoon . Both of the day’s guest speakers received an Honorary Bachelor of Applied Studies.
On June 22, the College welcomed former Ontario minister of education Sean Conway, visiting professor at Ryerson University, who received an Honorary Bachelor of Applied Studies at the morning ceremony. Derek McNally, executive vice president of Clinical Services, as well as a chief nursing executive at Niagara Health System, received an honorary diploma in Health Studies at the afternoon ceremony.
Currently celebrating its 50th year as a College of Applied Arts and Technology, NC is a leader in applied education and a key contributor to the economies of Niagara and Ontario. A regional college with global reach, NC offers more than 100 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs.