UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 10 | Jun.
We all leave footprints, reminds scholar
Message conveys appreciation of all we have, and what we offer
by Prof. Emeritus Martha Salcudean
The following is an excerpt from an address Salcudean gave upon
receiving an honorary degree from UBC during Spring Congregation
last month. An award-winning researcher, she is a professor emeritus
of Mechanical Engineering.
Whether you choose to start your career in the private or public
sector or continue to study toward a higher degree, always remember
that you are fortunate to live in a country in which democracy and
freedom are taken for granted, a country rich in traditions, but
open to change, a country which challenges you to work and achieve
your dreams, a country in which your ethnicity, race, colour, and
gender enrich the whole we represent, and where your achievements,
successes and rewards are dependent upon your work, your determinations,
and your willingness to give as a person to those around you.
How fortunate you are to be part of a generation that has not known
and hopefully will never know, the horror of wars and dictatorships.
I have seen something of both. I was a child of war-torn Europe.
The Second World War uprooted my family and me and only an extraordinary
chain of events spared our lives. After the war, when Nazi Germany
was defeated, our hopes were dashed when another era of dictatorship
engulfed Eastern Europe, another era of injustice, oppression and
lack of opportunity.
I vividly remember the time of my graduation -- no celebrations,
no choices, and no opportunities. I could not choose the city in
which to live, the place to work, or the apartment to call home.
I had to accept whatever the oppressive state allocated to me
or be sent to jail for sabotaging the system. It was not easy to
perservere and keep believing that there would be a light at the
end of the tunnel for my family and me. But here we are! No wonder
I still think that my life here is too good to be true.
Love for my family, my interest in people, my trust in friends
and a steely determination never to give up gave me strength and
I continued to struggle for what I believe in. I wanted to believe
what Disraeli wrote, "Man is not the creature of circumnstance.
Circumstances are the creatures of men" (and, of course, of women).
The freedom and opportunities you have bring with them the responsibility
to live your lives so that when you reach my age and look back you
can proudly say to yourself "I did my best."
Only a very few extremely gifted individuals create world famous
works of art, or revolutionize science and technology and leave
an obvious mark for future generations to see.
Nevertheless all of us leave footprints of some kind. We all can
contribute to the best of our abilities.
The way we do our work, the way we treat our parents, our spouses
and children, and our neighbours -- this is all part of what we
can do for others and what, in turn, we hope to receive.