‘Do not rest on your oars. It is never time to rest on your oars.’

As the celebrations of graduation came to a close this week, I was reminded of Thomson’s advice to graduates of Aberdeen Training Centre in 1954.

Graduation is a time of celebration, but it can also be a time of uncertainty, which is reflected in Thomson’s address.  He didn’t expect the graduates in front of him to have all the answers their bright eyed, bushy tailed counterparts lacked a few years earlier.  For Thomson, graduation was simply the beginning of a life long education:

You must remain students. No advice to those leaving college is more necessary or more important. Other things are also important, of course…you must be active, if you can, in the public life of the community in which you settle. But remain students. Study. Choose some branch of knowledge in which you can become, if not a master, at least a well-informed disciple. Choose a subject you like. “No profit grows where is no pleasure ta’en”. And if you possibly can, do something creative in it.

Thomson presenting a prize at a school in Wolverhampton

Sound advice, but perhaps not quite what those of you about to gleefully burn the books would like to hear!  Thomson also advised the graduates not to become complacent:

The other that I want to emphasise is the importance of the early years of your career on your ultimate success, on the ultimate height you may hope to rise to. The years behind you have already laid their mark on you. The next few years will in most cases be decisive. So do not rest on your oars. It is never time to rest on your oars, but least of all in these years just ahead of you. There are of course vacations legitimately to be enjoyed. Life would be a sad journey without its inns at which to recuperate. But to spend the whole of life at the inn makes a sadder story.

Thomson admits his advice may seem rather grim at first, but as he tells us, ‘the fact is there is no greater pleasure than comes from work’, and there is no greater rest than that which is earned.

With that, I would like to congratulate our graduates, and wish them the very best!

Leave a Reply