The Grand Council of the Crees

Graduation Ceremony, McLean's Memorial School; Remarks by: Deputy Grand Chief Ashley Iserhoff

Graduation Ceremony, McLean's Memorial School; Remarks by: Deputy Grand Chief Ashley Iserhoff

Posted: 2007-06-15

'Graduates, parents, friends, teachers, administrators and family, it is a pleasure to be invited here today to take part in your special day. It is special for many of you here in this room as it marks a commitment, accomplished and a combined effort of many people in this room.

To the graduates of the Class of 2007, I would like to say there is no perfect model of what you should do or accomplish from here on in. Whether you decide to go on next year to CEGEP or pursue other options, you do so with the support and encouragement of us. Life is not about what you have or what you do as much as it is about what you do with what you have each day. It is about living and using the tools you have at present to make your life and the life of those around you a bit better.

When you awoke this morning many of you probably had a feeling of anticipation for this moment, and the joy that comes with accomplishment. Today, you graduates share a common bond of having made a series of choices in your life that allowed you to get here today. You have shared many moments and experiences throughout your time here at McLean's Memorial. While maybe not all of them will have been memorable or positive, together they form a part of who you are. I say this to let you know also, this journey of determining who you are is not over here today.

Some of you will be thinking of future employment in the area or elsewhere, and others will be thinking of pursuing more education in terms of college or learning a specific skill or trade. Regardless, I would encourage you to take advantage of what you have learned here, and what you will learn over these next few years to realize that anything is possible. A key to personal and career success is to ensure that we do not impose barriers and limitations upon ourselves.

I would like to share a story with you of someone I have a great deal of admiration and respect for. His life started with many of the same experiences that you have here, and he is even from this area. One day while he was playing around the house area as a little boy, a large city vehicle backed up over him. The doctors told his family he would likely not make it to the morning. His family and the community prayed for him, and give him enough strength to bring him home. This little boy spent 43 days in intensive care, and more than 8 months in rehabilitation to learn to walk again. The accident had taken one of his legs but not his life or will.

Many of you might feel sorry for him, but don't. He grew up to not see his accident or the loss of one of his legs as a barrier to him accomplishing things. He was one of the most active members of the community when it came to youth events. He has been a reporter with CBC. And, he has been blessed with an incredible talent of singing and now performs with his band. He is an inspiration to us all. If he had of listened to what others around him said about limitations, he would not be who he is today.

He was recently married, and although it was uncertain if he could have children because of the accident, he now has a beautiful daughter. How do I know so much about this individual, I know him as my brother, and his life has been a blessing to my family and to the people who know him. I would encourage all of you to not put limitations or barriers on yourself, and to contribute to the lives of those around you in a positive way.

Barriers do not have to be physical that try to hold us back. McLean Memorial School is unique in that it offers both native and non-native students an environment to work to take down cultural barriers that may have existed in the past. In the region, the population of native and non-native peoples is almost equal. The building of relationships and friendships is a good start to building together opportunities so we can realize common dreams and make our worlds a little smaller.

There are many movements that help change the world around them in a good way but removing the concept of barriers - Doctors without Borders goes into countries all over the world to help people needing medical attention because of war and other events. The Red Campaign by Bono allows all of us by purchasing small items at the Gap to send money directly to Africa to reduce disease and poverty. American Idol held a fundraiser which raised millions in one night by telling us a $10 contribution can save 8 lives with needed medicine.

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet and elder from South Africa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu in New York City when I went to the United Nations to participate in some discussions. The message he carried to the people was that like fingers on your hand, we may look slightly different but we must realize we are all a part of the same family. When we work together we can accomplish much more than trying to work separately. We have strength and ability when we work in cooperation like your hand. He was a man who in South Africa was not allowed to vote until he was in his 60s because people of the generation before his did not realize this or were afraid to take the step forward to have change.

Today, in my parting words, I would say to you do not be afraid to make that step for change. The world around you opens up, and we realize it is not so much about what others do, but what we impose upon ourselves that limits what you can do from this point in your life onward. I have great confidence in what you can do to make this earth and your lives better.

Congratulations again to the graduating class of 2007.

Meegwetch, thank You.