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Dr. Francis Severin
Dr. Francis Severin

Although the environment has an impact on someone's goals and eventual achievements, one's decisions and choices play the fundamental role in life's journey.

Dr. Francis Severin, the head of The University of The West Indies Open Campus, told graduates of the Castle Bruce Secondary School last week that they have no one to blame if they make wrong decisions.

"I have asked you to ignore for the moment the social environment because the brutal truth is that, as much as you may want to blame others in the future – whether your parents, or your politicians, your government, your teachers, and so on (all of whom are important) – such dispensing or dishing out of blame will not lessen or mitigate the bitterness, regret, sorrow and despair you will feel if you do not resolutely make your own decisions based on integrity, honesty, graciousness and hard work as opposed to dishonesty, indolence (laziness) and a sensibility of dependency and spinelessness," Dr. Severin said.

Delivering the feature address at the school's graduation ceremony on 29 June 2017, Dr. Severin told the graduates that he was not ignoring the fact that the field of play is usually unequal and unfair.

"I am also fully aware that the metaphoric playing field or starting line in the race, is unequal. You know that too," he said. "For example, you know that in our society, the rewards (e.g., employment, scholarships, and other "products") do not always depend on your merit or diligence but on the connections you have, or, as they say, who you know."

But in spite of these inequalities, Dr Severin said, "you must never lessen or reduce your diligence and resolve" to achieve their dreams; he advised that because of these inequalities "you must push even harder when the forces of injustice, unfairness and iniquity against you increase".

"Herein resides the fundamental challenge that will test your mettle, your essence and your soul," he said.

Speaking to the school's graduation theme "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams", Dr. Severin told the graduates that they may have to stay home to achieve whatever dream they create because it is becoming increasingly difficult to migrate.

"Yes, you may run to the USA, or the United Kingdom or Europe and so on, for rescue, but you will not be welcomed with open arms," he said. "In short, there is nowhere to hide now".

He added: "Graduates, this is bad news for you but it also poses exciting challenges. How are your DREAMS going to come true? Is it an option to say, "Well I do not care what happens to Dominica anymore because my uncle, or big brother or sister, or cousin will send for me" Trust me, they have problems of their own and, surely, you cannot survive in sub-zero temperatures all your lives".

Dr. Severin suggested that to the graduates that a sound education is essential to the attainment of their dreams.

Stating that education may be viewed as a means to an end, a vehicle for self-development and advancement of our communities and country, Dr. Severin added: "Our education must be the framework within which we dream, and when you listen carefully to what I believe dreams are, you will appreciate why your continuing education is essential if you are to press on inexorably towards your dreams".

But for dreams to become reality it must be the focus of their lives, Dr. Severin told the Castle Bruce Secondary School.

The UWI Open Campus director told the graduants that their dreams must not be a "some vague, unclear or imprecise wish" but must be constructed on the basis of "present realities and future prospects".

He continued: "I want to suggest that you should think of short-term dreams, medium-term dreams en route to accomplishing your long-terms dream," he said. "Your dreams must be consistent with good and wholesome values …You may have been told in the past to dream big. Today, I say to you, not only should you dream big, but be certain that your dreams can stand up to the scrutiny of integrity, honesty and legitimacy.

"Your attitude should not be to accomplish your dreams at all cost. What you dream must not be at the expense of or do harm to others. So dreaming of fame, money, an unusually large house, controlling hundreds of employees, or thousands of people, may provide you with temporary comfort if such a dream comes true, but may not necessarily result in lasting peace of mind, and certainly might cause you to not experience what you may have really hoped for in the first place.

"Cheating at all levels and in any sphere of life is wrong and you will experience the emptiness of your victory or your dreams if you have accomplished them through illegal and unjust means. Your tiny Kia Ray gives you more comfort if it is legitimately earned than the next person's Toyota Land Cruiser, if it is stolen.

"I wish to also add the element of moral intelligence in terms of the context in which you accomplish your dreams. Your dreams will endure when they have been accomplished with the attributes or principles of integrity, responsibility, compassion and forgiveness, the hallmarks of a morally intelligent person".