20 October 2021, Royal Albert Hall

Members of Court and Council, colleagues, distinguished honourees, graduates, family and friends. It is my honour, as President of Imperial College London, to welcome you to Commemoration Day 2021. 

First and foremost, graduates, congratulations.

You have excelled, adapted, worked hard, improvised and innovated through the especially difficult times we have faced. You are talented scholars, inventors, entrepreneurs, musicians, dancers, actors, singers and athletes.

The enjoyment of this day is enriched by those who supported you during your days at Imperial and are watching this wonderful ceremony.

Your families and friends are always there when you need them. They share in your triumphs and take pride in your accomplishments.  Let us take a moment to show our appreciation to them.

Our academics have shared their knowledge, sparked your curiosity and broadened your horizons. They are dedicated researchers and educators, the best in their fields.

They, like you, adapted, improvised and innovated. They went to great lengths to ensure that your education was the best it could be. They have shown you the importance of having high standards and dedication to purpose for everything that you do. Let’s thank them too.

The saying, "change is the only constant in life” is attributed to the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus around 500BC. We see the wisdom of these words in the profound changes to our individual routines and institutional policies brought about by the pandemic. 

The past few years have been difficult.

But it is during difficult times that we often learn very valuable lessons.  We can use the lessons we learned during the pandemic to help guide us going forward.

The ability to manage change in your personal and professional lives is critical to your future success and happiness.  You are prepared to adapt to new ways of doing things while keeping the best of the tried and tested ways of the past.

You will view change not as an inconvenience, but as an opportunity to do things better. You will be flexible.

As you navigate the future, here are three thoughts to keep top of mind.

  • Evaluate your priorities
  • Balance the difficult with the easy
  • Help one another to navigate the future

Evaluate your priorities

The pandemic heightened our sense of vulnerability. We reflected on how we use our time. We also took a hard look at our priorities.

As circumstances change in your professional and personal lives you will need to continually reevaluate your priorities. You must decide on the path that is best for you.  

You will have choices. 

What wonderful opportunities should you seize?

What risks should you take? 

Like you, these will change over time. You have shown that you are adaptable and your Imperial foundation will help you have the confidence to change course as needed.

Stay true to your values while evaluating your priorities. 

Balance the difficult with the easy

Sometimes challenges seem insurmountable… be they challenges at home, at work or in the world at large. When faced with big challenges, don’t lose sight of opportunities to address problems that are smaller in scale and complexity.  

“Picking the low hanging fruit”  helps builds momentum, rewards successes and provides confidence and a sense of accomplishment.

You may be better able to face the difficult challenges ahead if you simultaneously navigate the easier problems while remaining focused on your priorities.     

Help one another to navigate the future

These past two years have changed the way we think about the future.  Our outlook is shaped by our age, experiences, personality, financial status, health, culture and other factors.

You have been shaped by your time at Imperial, by your peers and your teachers, your mentors and your advisors.  You have learned that sharing perspectives broadens understanding and helps develop a more informed and balanced approach to navigating the changes ahead.

Stay connected to your Imperial community. They will help you adapt and cope with whatever the future brings.

You will also be uplifted by the exciting things Imperial College staff and students are doing. Take the time to follow the many wonderful ways our community is making a difference. 

And, share with us your stories and celebrate the accomplishments of your fellow alumni; the more than 200,000 graduates of this great institution, are indeed, changing the world.

This time of change is as exhilarating as it is unsettling.

You have opportunities to seize and changes to navigate.

You have the ability to become leaders in this rapidly changing world.

I know that you will help make the world a better place.

Again, congratulations.

Thank you.