Celebration of the Indigenous master’s students
MIS 2016 Graduation Speech
A dhaoine uaisle, a chairde, fáilte róimh Árdna, áit álainn seo a thosaigh ár dturas. Táimíd ar ais arís inniu, ar an ócáid mór seo. Is mise Jean Caomhánach, file ó Éirinn, agus ba mhaith liom scéal a insint daoibh.
Two years ago, we gathered here in this building for the first time, sat in the fire circle and introduced ourselves. I know now how nervous we all were, starting out, because I don’t think anyone takes on this Master’s degree lightly; I think Indigenous Studies requires a certain kind of passion, and is something we thought about, and wanted, for a very long time. Eight people, with eight very different stories and backgrounds, from Uganda, Canada, Italy and Ireland, Tromsø and Oslo, and the Finnish side of Sápmi. And, like in every great story, something magical happened. We didn’t just become a class, we became friends. Eight paths became one. We laughed together, we panicked together, we studied together. And what struck me throughout, was the great generosity of spirit that existed between us, a sharing of knowledge, encouragement and support. And that is a rare thing.
Of course, we didn’t do it alone. Aided and abetted by our fellow students from other programmes, our teachers and our supervisors, everyone at Sesam, and particularly Torjer and Else Grete, who worked closely with us, and equipped us with the knowledge and skills to achieve this, the end result. But it’s not about the result, and it’s certainly not the end.
A result, in this academic institution, takes two years of hard work, and reduces it down to a single letter of the alphabet. In this day and age, people have forgotten why they go to university, they do so to get a qualification, to improve their job prospects. They forget the real reason universities exist – we are here to get an education. My Master’s thesis, in all it’s shiny new glory, will eventually gather dust on a bookshelf – hopefully it will be read by others online – but the knowledge I’ve acquired, everything I’ve learned, the people I’ve met, the scholars that have inspired me, that’s what I will carry forward, in my head and in my heart, as an academic, as a poet, and as a person.
And as for the end, every ending is a new beginning. One path again becomes eight, but I feel they will cross again many times on the unseen map of the future, which, from today, we take our first steps onto.
To quote the great Bilbo Baggins:
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
And as Sámi superstar and fellow classmate, Niko Valkeapää, has constantly reminded us – we are Masters of the Universe! And we are now, indeed, masters of our own fate.
I would like to raise a toast to my fellow students with the old Irish proverb – go n-éirí an bhóthar libh, may the road rise to meet you, agus go mbeirimíd beo ag an aimsir arís – which loosely translates as – see you again at the Riddu Riddu reunion!
Go raibh míle maith agaibh.