17 October 2018, Royal Albert Hall

Members of Court and Council, colleagues, distinguished honourees, graduates, family and friends. 

It is my honour, as the President of Imperial College London, to welcome you to Commemoration Day 2018.

Graduates, congratulations. We are here to celebrate your accomplishments, we applaud your many talents and we wish you well in all that awaits you. You have worked hard at your studies and you have excelled. You have also the found time to excel outside the lecture halls and laboratories. You are scholars as well as practitioners. You are talented inventors, entrepreneurs, musicians, dancers, actors, singers and athletes. And you are volunteers who gave your most precious commodity, your time, to help others.

We also want to recognize those whose support was essential during your time at Imperial.

My dear colleagues sitting here on the stage with me, and many others, who have shared their knowledge, sparked your curiosity and broadened your horizons. They are dedicated researchers and educators, the best in their fields. They have challenged and inspired you.  They have shown you the importance of having high standards for everything that you do. I think we should give them a vote of thanks. [Applause]

Your families and friends are always there when you need them. They share in your triumphs and they bring additional joy to today’s celebration and I am sure you will be thanking them for many years to come. 

You have multitudes of opportunities to contribute to the world. You have much to offer. The world needs people with your intelligence, your passion and your commitment to learning. You will contribute greatly to society. [Pause]

I hope that one thing you take away from your time at Imperial is the importance of working with others.  Whether it was through a group project for your course, while pursuing an entrepreneurial idea, or by gaining feedback on something you were doing, I hope that you found that the give and take of collaboration and teamwork amplified and polished what you did.

Several years ago, I came across the “Lost Interview” of Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs.  I learned a lot from several things he said.  In particular, I like his use of a rock tumbler as a metaphor for working together on design projects as a team. He says (and bear with me, as it’s a rather long quote):

… I’ve always felt that a team of people doing something they really believe in is like when I was a young kid there was a widowed man that lived up the street. … one day he said to me, “come on into my garage I want to show you something.” And he pulled out this dusty old rock tumbler. It was a motor and a coffee can with a little band between them. And he said, “come on with me.” We went out into the back and we got just some rocks. Some regular old ugly rocks. And we put them in the can with a little bit of liquid and a little bit of grit powder, and we closed the can up and turned on this motor and he said, “Come back tomorrow.”

And this can was making a racket as the stones went around.

And I came back the next day, and we opened the can. And we took out these amazingly beautiful polished rocks. The same common stones that had gone in, through rubbing against each other, creating a little bit of friction, creating a bit of noise, had come out as these beautiful polished rocks.

That’s always been on my mind my metaphor for a team working really hard on something they’re passionate about. It’s through that team, through that group of incredibly talented people bumping up against each other, having arguments, having fights sometimes, making some noise, and working together they polish each other and they polish the ideas, and what comes out are these really beautiful stones.[Pause]

You have accomplished quite a bit as a graduate of Imperial College London.

You have some very valuable rocks in your collection.

You now have the opportunity to polish them.

All you need is a little bit of grit and the ability to work in teams.

We wish you all the best.

And we welcome you into the wonderful community of 190,000 Imperial alumni; and, we hope that you will come back often and share your polished stones with us.

Thank you