Graduation address given by Matthew Gibbs

Matthew Gibbs gave the following occasional address at the University of Sydney Business School graduation ceremony held at 9.30am on 4 May 2012 in the Great Hall. Mr Gibbs is General Manager, Media and Communications, Australian Securities Exchange.

The photo of Mr Gibbs is copyright, Memento Photography.

Matthew Gibbs

Graduation address

St Crispin’s Day speech extract from Henry V by William Shakespeare:

This day is called the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall see this day, and live old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say, ‘Tomorrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words,
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remembered.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered –
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers:
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now abed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap, whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

I’ve waited more than 25 years to perform that speech in this place, the Great Hall.

Good morning Your Excellency, the Chancellor, Deputy Dean, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, and, most especially, graduating students.

Let me start by offering my congratulations.

It is a pleasure and an honour to be addressing you today – and not just because it gave me a chance to unleash that speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V.

25 years ago, in the days before mobiles, I was on a pay phone in the old Merewether Building between economics lectures, booking tickets to see the English Shakespeare Company’s production of Henry V that was playing in Canberra.

With tickets secured, down to the nation’s capital I went with my then girlfriend, now wife, Toni-Marie. Never underestimate the allure of a bus ride down the Hume Highway topped by an evening of Bard language to win a woman’s heart. It worked for me!

You might be wondering what’s Shakespeare got to do with the Business School or my time as an Economics then Public Affairs student who now works at the stock exchange? Please be assured, I haven’t stumbled into the wrong graduation ceremony.

As the poet Walt Whitman wrote autobiographically: ‘I am large, I contain multitudes’. A wonderful thing about this university is that it’s big enough to cater for those of us prone to multitudes.

Today’s ceremony might seem like the end. Graduation implies a completion, a moving on. But it need not be. Think of it, in Churchillian terms, not as the end, nor even the beginning of the end; but as the end of the beginning. You’ve already expended lots of Churchillian blood, toil, tears and sweat to come this far.

Today need not be the end of your relationship with the University. If nothing else, you wouldn’t want my rendition of the St Crispin’s Day speech as your last memory.

Many of the best years of my University life have occurred after I graduated. And those experiences haven’t all been linked to the disciplines I studied.

I arrived here in 1986 with romantic notions of Sydney University being like Oxford by the Parramatta Road; a place as depicted in Brideshead Revisited full of turtlenecks and teddy bears.

The romance was shattered with the results of my first assignment. I got 50% for a Government essay on the novel Lord of the Flies. It was the lowest mark I had received for anything, ever. To add insult to injury, the lecturer gave everyone who got less than 50% the chance to redeem themselves with a re-write. This condemned me to having the lowest mark in the class. It was an inauspicious debut.

But it didn’t put me off. I determined to indulge my multitudes.

I spent as much time in Fisher Library reading the poetry of Keats as the projections of Keynes. I was a regular visitor of the University’s museums and galleries. I appeared on the tennis courts as often as in the mock courts for my legal studies.

That balance made all the difference.

This is when I began my association with the Nicholson Museum – the oldest and one of the most impressive university museums in Australia – where today, years after I left uni as a student, I proudly serve as President of the Council of the Nicholson Friends.

I’m a believer that university offers not just lifelong learning but lifelong lingering.

And why not? ‘University’ has its origins in the word meaning ‘whole’. University can deliver for the whole individual – with all his or her multitudes - and for the whole of their life not just for the years of their enrolment.

I get a thrill every time I walk through the Main Quad, especially if the bells are pealing and the gargoyles are smiling.

And I now bring my children here for various events, from collectable fairs in this Hall to dress-up-as-a-Spartan-warrior-days on the Quadrangle lawn. Through my children, of course, I plan to exact revenge on my first-year Government teacher.

My alma mater continues to be a nourishing mother; now a nourishing grandmother.

The Business School imparted the knowledge and confidence I needed for a rewarding career in financial services. While the University, by giving me access to poetry and history and ideas, honed my skills in a discipline I love: communications.

I needed both – the academic and the aesthetic. That combination has been my value-add in the workforce.

And let me tell you, Shakespeare comes in very handy in the corporate world. Here’s some of his advice:

  • On decisiveness: ‘If it were done when tis done the twere well it were done quickly.’ (Macbeth)
  • On the burdens of leadership: ‘Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.’ (Henry IV Part 2)
  • On avoiding financial crises: ‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be.’ (Hamlet)
  • On doing what the boss says: ‘Being your slave what should I do but tend upon the hours and times of your desire?’ (Sonnet 57)
  • On office Christmas parties: ‘Let copulation thrive.’ (King Lear)

I look forward to the Bard being a subject for study at the Business School: ‘Shakespeare and the Stock Market’ or ‘Poetry and Price-earning Ratios’.

You don’t have to love Shakespeare or become President of the Nicholson Museum. They are part of my experience. I could do without a presidential coup anyway. We each have your own multitudes to explore.

Today you deserve the accolades that come with graduating. But there’s no cap and gown ceremony that marks the conclusion of your association with the University. That’s a privilege that need not end.

What must end, however, is this speech. Eventually.

‘How dull it is to pause, to make an end/To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!’

There’s your call to action, whatever you choose to do next - don’t rust unburnished. Have a go, keep exploring, don’t die wondering. It would make a worthy university motto.

They are lines from the Tennyson poem Ulysses. The poem was famously used by Teddy Kennedy when he ended his challenge to be the Democratic Party’s nomination for US President in 1980. Despite conceding, he urged his supporters to ensure that the “dream shall never die”.

The last lines are the best and the best way to concede my own ending:

Extract from Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world …
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.