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UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 10 | Jun. 14, 2001


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.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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