Chancellor Shirley Cheechoo knows what it’s like to struggle for success. Growing up in residential schools, Cheechoo has survived abuse, poverty and racism.
Through it all, she managed to persevere, heal and follow her passions. She’s become a world-renowned filmmaker, actor and visual artist.
As Brock University’s Chancellor, she is embracing the opportunity to share what she’s learned with graduating students.
I have fears that I will destroy this opportunity, but I trust that this University will back me up and you shall hear more of me.
“For the first time in my life, I feel I have been given back my voice,” she told a group of graduating students from the Faculties of Humanities and Math and Science.
“I have fears that I will destroy this opportunity, but I trust that this University will back me up and you shall hear more of me.”
Cheechoo said she sometimes worries about offending people with her comments.
“Fear is one of the most self-destructive, sabotaging behaviours you’ll face on a daily basis,” she told the grads. “No one prepares you for it and it will sneak up on you. You are the master of your own destiny. Don’t let fear control your life.”
As Chancellor, it’s Cheechoo’s role to stand in front of each convocation ceremony and deliver a message to the graduating students. For someone who typically works at a film school with a dozen or so graduates a year, inspiring more than 3,500 students has been somewhat intimidating.
The acclaimed Indigenous artist is overseeing her first Spring Convocation as the University’s Chancellor, and has inspired the Brock grads with her twice-daily addresses.
Other than common introductions, Cheechoo has written eight unique convocation addresses.
“Every day is a new day so I believe in giving new things each day. I prepared them using my experience with education and working with youth all my life.”
At the Goodman School of Business Convocation Thursday morning, Cheechoo told the crowd that every single one of them has an equal chance to succeed.
“All my life I have been judged because of the colour of my skin, the fact I was a woman and because I was Indigenous,” she said. “Never give up. Never say I can’t do it.
“Everyone sitting in this room is equal. Remember that when you go into your first interview, no one is better than you. We’re all equal.”