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A message from Stephen Lewis to Capilano University graduates

May 28, 2012

A message from Stephen Lewis (who, due to a back injury, was unable to attend Cap’s convocation and accepted his honorary degree in absentia):

“Graduates: Needless to say, I was excited and honoured about coming west to receive an honorary degree from Capilano University. It drives me crazy to submit to mortal frailty, but a nasty herniated disc makes lengthy plane travel impossible. I am so very sorry. Had I been able to come, I would have had two over-riding messages for you:

First, this world is swamped by crisis … just look at the barbaric massacre of children and families in Syria. Whether it’s conflict, or poverty, or disease, or climate change, the planet is desperately in need of leadership. And the leadership is wanting. Somehow, this next generation has to give voice to the injustice. We need courageous and outspoken advocates and activists, some of whom – perhaps some of the students of this graduating class – will travel to developing countries to make a contribution, and then tell the world of the struggle for survival, and refuse to be beaten down or silenced by indifferent governments.

Second, and to my mind of even greater priority, is the single most important issue on the planet: the struggle for gender equality. We’ll never achieve even a modicum of social justice if we continue to marginalize half the world’s population. The panoply of discrimination visited on the world’s women, particularly women of the developing world, is frankly unconscionable. Whether it’s international sex trafficking, or female genital mutilation, or child brides, or honour killings, or the absence of inheritance rights, or the absence of property rights, or the absence of economic autonomy, or insufficient political representation, or the contagion of sexual violence and rape to be found everywhere, we simply must see women’s rights as paramount and embrace the principle of equality.

With those brief thoughts, I again express my regrets at not being present on this joyous day for the graduating students, their families and friends, and the entire teaching and support staff of Capilano.

Congratulations to you all.” SL

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