Think global, act global Address by Stephen Jacobi, Executive Director, NZ International Business Forum to Whitireia International Graduation Ceremony. Auckland, 2 May 2014

by | May 2, 2014 | Speeches


It’s a pleasure to be with you and to have the honour to address this graduation ceremony.

On behalf of everyone here today I extend to you graduands our warmest congratulations for all you have achieved.

We salute not only your academic success but also your commitment and your enthusiasm for your studies.

I have no doubt that right now is the very best time to be graduating.

I say this because never before has the field of human knowledge been so broad.

Never before have we known so much about the world, about science, about technology, about enterprise.

Never before has our world been so inter-connected.

It has never been easier than it is today to study, to travel and to do business all around the world.

Many of you have travelled to New Zealand for just that purpose.

Our national life is enriched by the presence of international students and by the contribution made by those from around the world who choose to live and work here.

Whether tangata whenua or tangata Tiriti, Maori, or Pakeha, or people from nga hau e wha, the four winds, all of us have a memory, sometimes quite distant of another place where our families or our ancestors once lived.

My own family came to New Zealand in the 1960’s from England looking for and finding a new life and new opportunities for their children.

That’s no so different from newer arrivals today – all are looking for a brighter future.

In the 50 years since my family has lived in New Zealand the world has become a lot smaller.

It took us a month or so to travel by ship from Portsmouth to Auckland.  Today the trip by plane takes 24 hours.

What used to be local has become global – business, certainly, but also politics and policy making, culture and recreation, science and education.

Freer markets, ease of travel, the internet, and social networking have all helped this process.

These changes demand a response from us as citizens, as consumers and as communities.

You have heard it said:  “think global, act local”.

It is good to act local, to build strong local communities, to develop competitive local businesses.

Today I want to challenge you to think global and act global!

Because today, perhaps more so than at any other time in our history, local is global and global is local.

This is the future we need to embrace today.

Yes, these are the best of times for you graduating today but for too many people they are amongst the worst of times too.

They are the worst of times because the benefits of this new understanding of the world are not shared equally.

They are the worst of times because as the frontier of human knowledge has expanded, the limits of human compassion have been reached.

They are the worst of times because even despite all we know about business, about finance, about what makes economies tick, too many of our fellow citizens around the world do not share equally in economic and social success.

These are the best of times for all of us who enjoy the benefits of a world class education.

They are the worst of times if you have no job to go to, no education to call on and no hope for the future.

These problems are not so far away from us here in Aotearoa.

You don’t have to move too far here to see the effects of what we politely call “social exclusion” and by which we really mean poverty and a lack of opportunity.

Our economy in New Zealand is performing strongly at present.

Not only did we weather the storm of the financial and economic crisis but expanding commodity prices and the Christchurch rebuild are making our economy grow faster than many others.

That’s good but if the benefits of growth are not shared more equally then our whole society suffers.

There is a legitimate debate in New Zealand about the extent to which we as an small and largely open economy should open up even further in our engagement with the rest of the world.

I know there are some who would prefer us to raise up the drawbridge, turn our back on open markets and put in place new barriers to trade and even to immigration.

The reality is our wealth-producing industries – tourism, agriculture, forestry, fishing, horticulture, film and technology – have all been built on external markets.

These industries are New Zealand’s life-blood.

It’s the revenue from these industries flowing back into the rest of the economy which provides the resources we need for social and economic development.

These industries can only thrive and prosper in an open global economy.

That’s why New Zealand must do all it can to build on new opportunities opening up around the world.

That’s why we need to persuade other countries to open up to us in return through trade and economic agreements which eliminate trade barriers and put in place more effective rules for trade and investment.

A closed world means fewer opportunities for New Zealand; opening markets deliver benefits that spread through the rest of the economy.

We have great hope for you talented and motivated graduands entering the work force today.

Our hope is that because of what you have learned at Whitireia over the past years, because of the competence and dedication of your lecturers, you are going to help address the poverty of opportunity that is still far too evident around us.

In today’s technology rich but still cash-strapped world you will be able to do that so much better if you can think and act globally.

The more you can do this, the more effectively we can do this as a nation and as a family of nations, the more effective we will be in continuing to re-build the global economy and securing the future of our communities.

Some of you may have read the autobiography of US President, Barack Obama.

I was honoured to meet the President at the APEC meeting in Honolulu in 2011 and can certainly attest to the power of his personality.

His biography is called  “The Audacity of Hope”.

Audacity and hope are always in short supply in the world.

President Obama says that what we need is “hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope”.

Looking around this room  today, and seeing the pride which the families and friends of you graduands have in your achievement, it is not so hard for us too to find hope for the future.

By preparing for the future today,  by thinking global and acting global, by remaining open and outward looking to the rest of the world, we can find the audacity to find a way forward.

In these best of times and worst of times, your graduation today will help us not only to confront today’s challenges but to build a better world for the future.


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