Ask what is right and be a beaver
Catherine Hansen MD, MPH
Graduation day was a mix of excitement, bittersweetness and overwhelming pride.
We now have a son in university and if you have experienced the joy of this milestone, you will know that there are no words to express the multitude of feelings that arise. Eighteen years have come and gone and it's time to look in the rearview mirror and celebrate!
For Devon, graduation was a little different because his Dad, soon to be traveling to the moon on Artemis II was asked to provide a keynote and, after ensuring Devon’s approval, Jeremy took the stage.
Speaking to a room full of future global leaders, Jeremy reminded us that we won’t heal the dire issues of our world with divisiveness. We need people who openly and authentically collaborate to solve problems, just as the U.S. and Canada have joined forces to send people back into deep space.
We need more people who are willing to hear each other’s perspectives; people who listen instead of speak; who care about others more than themselves; who see the answers to their own questions in each other’s eyes.
In front of the international student body representing 45 countries, he reminded them that in order to be part of the solution, they need to contribute in real and meaningful ways. He said that, in the world today,
“We don’t have a people problem; we have a leadership problem” and called them into greater whole-hearted leadership of self and others.
Jeremy reflected on his recent vision quest and some of the teachings he was been blessed to receive from Mother Earth and Indigenous elders.
There were 3 key messages.
First, that beavers teach us a vital truth about life. Beavers use their teeth to chew trees. With a little laughter, he asked if anyone had tried to chew a tree because, “it’s hard”. But Beavers do it and it’s a special skill they have that no other animals have. With this unique gift they build dams that affect the ecosystem, create wetlands and give back to other species in positive ways. If they don’t get up each day and express their genius by chewing trees, their teeth continue to grow in debilitating ways. With this very simple but profound example of how we each have a role to play, he encouraged us all to know and live our brilliance.
Secondly, that doing those things that we do well is the best way to make a contribution to the people and world around us AND provides a path to happiness. Creating happiness in our lives is not something we sit around and wait for - it’s something we work toward and pursue by using the gifts that we have been given.
And thirdly, to have gratitude. Utilizing a story about the explosion aboard the Apollo 13 mission, he described the minutes when the flight director was receiving data about all the problems on the ship. In response, NASA's Gene Kranz forcefully commanded his team to stop telling him what was wrong and to find out what was still working and how they could “use what is right” to bring home the crew. By looking at what was right, the team saved the lives of those 3 men.
In nature, with no food or water, Jeremy reflected on what was right with his experience and found connection, beauty and wisdom (follow all his adventures on Instagram here or my more personal posts & pics here).
We too are being asked to look around at a world with many problems and extend gratitude for what is right - let’s start with what is working, use our gifts and endeavor to heal humanity.
From the stage, Jeremy extended his arms and reminded the graduating class, that when he looks around, he is reminded about what is right with the world and "it is YOU!”
The chorus of this beautiful song, Existence by Shylah Ray Sunshine comes to mind,
“You are so powerful, you are the one you’ve been waiting for.”
With our son heading off to Carlton University in Ottawa and our twins returning to graduate next year (already!), our family is focused on a summer filled with making a contribution, co-creating happiness and expressing gratitude for the time we have together in our one precious life!
May you always ask what is right and be a beaver!