Ngaire Woods, Guest of Honour – Sciences Po 2018 Graduation Ceremony

Ngaire Woods, Guest of Honour – Sciences Po 2018 Graduation Ceremony


Well, good evening Director, colleagues, Dean
Yann Algan, students, relatives, family, all who support you It is a huge honour and pleasure to be here
tonight to celebrate a fantastic moment for each of you, and I want first to start with
my warmest congratulations It’s not easy getting a degree from Sciences
Po and you’ve done it: that’s a great achievement Now, what I’d really love you to do is to
turn and applaud, not the students in the room, but first their parents, their supporters
and their family, and then their fantastic professors So students, why don’t you applaud them I’ve travelled today from across the channel,
as they call it in England, from Oxford University, where, with my colleagues over the last eight
years, we’ve been building the Blavatnik School of Government, another global school
with a mission to improve government And I will confess that in the course of building
that school I first met the dean of your school, Yann Algan, and he was not yet at Sciences
Po, and I was very keen to recruit him to Oxford I’m very disappointed that we didn’t succeed
but I am delighted for you It has been a real pleasure to watch the School
of Public Affairs at Sciences Po grow and develop since its birth in 2015 and it is
a real pleasure to be here tonight and see its success in the faces of all these brilliant
graduates Yann Algan said already tonight that you are
graduating at a time of real challenge as well as of real opportunity, and that this
is a world in which there are more and more clashing worldviews I saw that this week: on Tuesday I was in
Mumbai in India with the governments of China and India at the Asian Infrastructure Investment
Bank, watching emerging economies building a whole new trade system of their own and
building it with huge investments and huge infrastructure You can, perhaps, imagine my surprise when
I returned to the United Kingdom on Wednesday morning to meet and to listen to a British
minister who was arguing that Britain could lead the world once it is outside the European
Union, it could lead the world to build a new free trade order and bring global prosperity
to all Single-handedly it would seem, in his belief Again, it’s a belief that clashes with probably
a large part of his own government’s cabinet and certainly many others in Britain But it’s not just at the international level
that we’re seeing these clashing views; it’s in almost every democracy of the world,
in almost every country that each of you comes from We’re seeing majorities vote for anything
except the establishment, and by the way, I think tonight you’ve all become the establishment Don’t believe the people who tell you that
the mass no longer believes in democracy, that they are xenophobic or that they are
ignorant: not true They’re voting against the establishment because
they simply don’t believe that it represents them any more For 30 years, they’ve been told by trusted
leaders in the public sector and in the private sector that globalisation will be managed
in a way that will secure benefits for everybody If they just work harder, their lives and
the lives of their children will be better And yet, what many many are finding and increasingly
large numbers are finding, is that the mix of technology, of globalisation, and of public
policy is combining to shape a world in which jobs are getting worse, more precarious, lower
paid; that schools are overcrowded, that health systems are underfunded People all over the world are asking, who
is on my side? I want you to think about your own community
and those with far less opportunity than you and ask who in the political system, and who
leading the private sector is on their side and in their view: who do they trust? Now in the old establishment (that’s me,
that’s perhaps just a few others in this room), they’re trying to persuade each other
in an old-fashioned way by giving speeches, by using mainstream media, public relations
companies, political parties that are no longer getting votes, conventional incremental economic
policy prescriptions But these times call for something different Or, better put, in almost every democracy
today, a majority of people are calling for something very different And that is where each of you come in, each
and every one of you: because in your lifetimes you are going to have to do nothing less than
rebuild your democracies, rebuild your community and society to make it more cohesive, and
rebuild your economy to make it more inclusive And you can do that, I really believe you
can do that There’s just three things I want to leave
you with tonight that I think will help you to do that better than our generation have
done it The first sounds really simple: it’s the
ability to listen You know, a London taxi driver once asked
me what I did as a job: I said I was a professor, and, somewhat to my surprise, he said, “you
know, the more educated a person is, the less they actually know” I said, “ah that’s an interesting point” But I thought about it more and thought, actually,
there is a danger here that the more educated you are, the more time you spend talking and
the less time you spend listening That you come to great universities and you
learn theories and you learn concepts, and you learn facts, and you learn evidence; and
then there’s a risk that when you go out into the real world, instead of really listening
and observing things that you don’t know, you squeeze them into your grand theory, you
squeeze them into your dataset, you squeeze them into what you’ve learnt That might explain why the establishment failed
in the United States to understand why people would vote for President Donald Trump, it
might be why the establishment in the United Kingdom failed to understand why the people
might vote for Brexit They were perhaps too educated to remember
to listen I know you’ll do better, I hope you’ll
do better What will help you to do better is if your
team itself is every bit as diverse as the community you’re trying to represent It’s a point that even Larry Fink, the CEO
of BlackRock, the world’s largest Asset Manager, makes: he says, if your board doesn’t look
like, in race, gender etc, if it doesn’t look like your customers, you will fail in
the long-term You won’t have the resilience you need to
survive as a successful firm You need a diverse team so that you can actually
understand the world around you from all the perspectives that are being brought to bear So my first reflection to you is really work
at learning to listen far better than we, the older generation, have done My second reflection is actually about boldness Many around you will caution you to be careful,
not to make mistakes And I guess I would say to you all, but perhaps
particularly to a lot of women in the room: don’t let your anxieties, don’t let your
doubts, hold you back Learn to discipline yourself to be bold, learn
to be your best supporter, and don’t be afraid of making mistakes: it’s by making
mistakes that we learn really quickly When I first arrived in the UK as a New Zealander
I got all confused with these titles that the British love to use, in fact I watched
students in my school get confused every year So I rang a secretary and asked to speak to
Sir Smith She said, and I will never forget: “Now
look, my dear, you are now in Britain: you must understand that it is Sir and then a
first name, or Lord and then a second name Do you have that clear?” I got it clear; if I hadn’t made that mistake
I would never have got it so clear So even little mistakes are worth making to
learn quickly But the other thing I want to say about boldness
and mistakes is, try to make your mistakes original What does that mean? It means do your homework Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking
you’re the first person ever to try something. Instead, if you want to educate children in
a refugee camp, before you set up your NGO or start-up to do it, ask yourself who is
already doing this that’s the best in the world, and how can I join them and learn from
them In Computer Science it’s called “standing
on the shoulders of giants”, but for each of you it’s simply saying, when you embark
on something, ask, who does this best, what can I learn from them, and what mistakes do
they make that I can avoid, so that I can be bold enough to make mistakes but my mistakes
will be original And my final reflection here tonight is actually
about leadership Humans do need leadership because collectively
we can do so much together, but groups need someone to help clarify and define what they’re
trying to achieve and someone to help to mobilise them to achieve that I’m sure every one of you has found that In a top university like Sciences Po it’s
hard, because every one of you probably thinks I could this faster or quicker by myself but
I have to somehow do it with these six people That’s what happens in Oxford, anyway So how are you going to mobilise your community? How are you going to mobilise the people around
you? You can do it using muscle, using money, using
your position, using power But mostly what you’ll get is the appearance
that people are doing things You can use your ambition and attract other
ambitious people who want to climb up the same ladder as you But my reflection is that groups of self-interested
people, of people focussed on their own ambition seldom achieve anything long lasting So the final way you can do it is through
purpose: that’s to bring together people who share your purpose, not necessarily your
ambition and you’re not necessarily incentivising them to join you, but they come together with
shared purpose Here’s the thing i really want to say to
you tonight: you will find those people in unlikely places and I would urge you to find
those people in unlikely places Look in the political party that opposes you,
look in the religion that is most different than your own, look in the countries that
you think might be your enemies, look in other groups that you think are oppositional to
you Because if you can learn to find coalitions
in unlikely places with people you are astonished to find yourselves working with, you’ll
achieve change that’s far more lasting and far more meaningful So graduates of 2018 I want to just say: have
fun, be joyful, that’s going be your best mobilising technique Make mistakes that you can learn from, learn
ever better to listen and go ahead with all the boldness it’s going to take to make
a positive difference to the world I salute you all. Thank you.