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Address to Graduating Students
by General A. G. L. McNaughton
President of the National Research Council of Canada 1935-1944

If the world of affairs, to which you are now about to transfer your activities, were governed by the laws of logic there would, of course, at once be a proper niche in which your energies would be absorbed.

But, fortunately or unfortunately, the one characteristic which seems to be most conspicuous for its lack in the world as we know it, is logic; and this is the case whether it be in business, in the Arts and Sciences, in the Public Service, or in Government itself. Everywhere things seem, at least on the surface, to be made up of discontinuities and it is probable that you will find it exceedingly difficult to pick out and identify, let alone to follow, the thread of purpose which, without any doubt, links all things together in a pattern; but it is a pattern in which the harmonies are only revealed by faith and the light of experience; and experience comes only with patience, long continued.

So the path which I predict for you is no smooth open road leading straight into the future, but one of ups and downs, of trials and tribulations, and obstacles. You would not have it otherwise. Steel is not forged except by fire; trials are to consume the dross; and obstacles are a challenge to be overcome so that, when you shall reach the heights of some accomplished undertakings, you may not only take your satisfaction in the end itself but know that you have become a more useful instrument for the further tasks which always lie ahead.

If I have pictured for you a vista not made up of quiet, and peace, and simple pleasure, there is no need to be pessimistic on that account. For the world, despite its conflicts and uncertainties - or possibly because of them - is a very interesting place. Things everywhere are in a flux of rapid, successive change, and nowhere more forcefully than in Canada, this marvellous country of ours, where opportunity expands before the eye in ever-widening fields for useful endeavour.

And so, with the hope of widest benefits to human happiness on the one hand, and danger, real and always incipient, on the other, we must have leaders of purpose and clear vision in the choice of objectives - leaders who will give the most careful forethought in planning; leaders who will be ever alert in the nicest balance to safeguard the nation's welfare and at the same time prevent distractions from disturbing the forward course on which we are embarked.

It seems to me that, after Faith in Divine Providence, Purpose is the great attribute which those who aspire to leadership must strive for.

Purpose, definite and firmly held, and always pressed with vigour.

Loyola College, Montreal, June 1, 1957
Source: McNaughton, John Swettenham, Volume 3, Ryerson Press, 1969

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