Dr Julia Gillard

May 17, 2017 by Ehud Zion Waldoks
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Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has conferred an Honorary Doctorate to former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard.

Julia Gillard [c] receives an honorary doctorate from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer-Sheva on Tuesday evening. (Photo Credit: Dani Machlis/BGU)

The ceremony was held at the Marcus Family Campus in Beer-Sheva during the 47th Board of Governors Meeting.

BGU President Prof. Rivka Carmi lauded Gillard and explained the rationale for awarding her the distinction.

“We use the occasion of the Board of Governors meeting to award honorary degrees to persons who have distinguished themselves by academic, scientific or creative achievement, who have rendered outstanding service to the University, or whose activities have been of notable benefit to humanity, the Jewish people or the State of Israel”, she said.

President Carmi praised Gillard’s pioneering roles saying: “The Hon. Julia Gillard was the 27th Prime Minister of Australia and the first woman ever to serve in that leading role in her country. Her 2012 celebrated speech in Parliament on the treatment of women in professional and public life created a storm and had worldwide impact. She is dedicated to the promotion of quality education worldwide and among other roles, she serves as a Distinguished Fellow with the Centre for Universal Education at the Brookings Institute and as Patron of Camfed, a Campaign which aims to tackle poverty and inequality and to empower young women to step up as leaders of change. Earlier this year Ms. Gillard received the donor of Companion of the Order of Australia.

“Ms. Gillard you are an inspiration to women everywhere!”

President Carmi touched upon the importance of honorary doctorates at this particular time.

“Moreover, for us, the acceptance of an honorary degree by a candidate is an acknowledgement of our own merit and honours our institution and what we stand for. This is particularly significant for Israeli universities now in view of international voices to boycott Israeli academic institutions,” she declared.

Earlier in the day, Gillard delivered the Irene and Hyman Kreitman Annual Memorial Lecture. In a thoughtful and erudite lecture entitled “Reflections on a Life of Purpose,” Gillard traced her roots from her birth in Wales, through her beginnings in politics to the premiership, and her continued public activities.

On BGU and David Ben-Gurion

She began by discussing David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s visionary first prime minister:

“I can think of no more fitting tribute to David Ben-Gurion than to have this place of learning and research bear his name.

Here, in this harsh landscape, he saw hope and opportunity, not insurmountable challenges.  In 1954 he wrote:
  ‘Here, in the wastes of the Israel desert, one can work together with daring young men full of vision and pioneering spirit, who are truly the glory and hope of the nation.  Only with pioneering forces like these … can a young state fulfil its mission.

I am certain if he were writing today his words would have acknowledged daring young women as well as men.

And today, he would have been delighted that in his honour, this university nurtures and grows a courageous new generation for a new age. A generation equipped with world leading scientific skills. A generation schooled in a diversity and acceptance, through studying alongside students and faculty from so many countries and cultures, including Bedouin women and Iranian medical educators. A generation of global citizens who understand the Negev, Israel and our globalised world. A generation of which Ben Gurion would have been proud.”

On the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

She also touched on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reflecting on the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War next month.

“I want to see Israel continue to pursue its destiny as it was conceived by Ben-Gurion and the other founders.  I believe that to enable a meaningful peace process, leaders in Gaza, in Tehran, indeed around the world, must forever end the ugly and hateful speech that denounces Israel’s right to exist.  It is key to peace that Israel is acknowledged by all as a Jewish State and democracy.

I also want to see the dawn of Palestine Independence Day.  I want the Palestinian people to enjoy and pursue their destiny in full, and to have a prosperous and successful country of their own – a nation they call home at long last.

“Everyone talks about a two-State solution. I did consistently as Prime Minister.  That is my view today.  There can be no other course.  Nothing else will lead to lasting peace.”

She also voiced a note of caution directed at Israeli politicians.
“Like so many other supporters of Israel around the world, I have watched with mounting concern some of the political discussion in Israel which is inconsistent with achieving a two-state solution.  I have become concerned that policies about settlements today will create long lived problems for achieving that peace,” she warned.

During the Q&A following the lecture, she elaborated on that point, “What is the alternative? An unending security situation that is not in Israel’s best interest.”

“I do not come with a plan or a blueprint but a state of mind,” she said.

On a Life of Purpose

During the lecture, Gillard offered five suggestions for how to live a life of purpose.

“When you think about Ben Gurion, there is one overriding attribute, at least for me, that defined the man: His overriding sense of purpose.  Everything he did in his life from the moment he encountered Zionism as a young man in Poland was to build and defend the Jewish state. That sense of purpose was so direct and powerful.

And today, I want to offer you some reflections of the importance of having a sense of purpose inside yourself as you navigate life – its opportunities and its challenges.

It has certainly been a defining feature of my life… I had discovered that having a sense of purpose is one thing but sticking with it over time and in difficult circumstances is the real test. To live a life of purpose, you need to look within and define it. What’s driving you, what are your values, what’s your vision, what are you striving to achieve? Then write it out and reread it on the toughest of days, to steady yourself, to keep yourself on track.

Staying true to your sense of purpose also requires a strong sense of self. Everyone likes to be liked. But living solely for the approval of others will be a life defined by their agendas, not your own.  Living a life of purpose may well mean making hard decisions, the kind that divide those around you. It is therefore important to cultivate an inner reserve,” she said.

Gillard also injected some humour.

“Not every occupation is quite as exposed to harsh critiques as being Prime Minister.  But everyone today, both directly and on social media, can find themselves subject to free and often not friendly character assessments. Staying on course requires a clear sense of self, that isn’t pushed off course by these kinds of critiques.  It also requires the judgement to identify fair and constructive criticism from ugly sniping.  Here’s one tip on how to do so that worked for me – if the jibe comes in after midnight on twitter, it’s fuelled by alcohol not acumen,” she quipped.

Gillard discussed the important versus the urgent.

“Living a life of purpose also means striving to find time for the important, not just the urgent. While this dilemma has always been with us, never has the urgent been more privileged in commanding our attention over the important.  Today’s technology means the urgent beeps, pings and vibrates at us 24/7.  In this crowded, contested world, having the discipline to carve out time to do the important has never been harder and never mattered more.  I urge you to find that discipline.”

She summarised saying “A sense of purpose, a sense of self, a focus on the important. Gratitude for the aces live has given you.  A preparedness to fight for the rights of other to equality, education, opportunity.”

Gillard’s fellow recipients included: Nobel Laureates Prof. Linda B. Buck, USA and Prof. Stanley B. Prusiner, USA; Famed geneticist Prof. Eric S. Lander, USA; and magnanimous supporters of BGU Ellen S. Marcus, USA and Carole and Marcus Weinstein, USA.


One Response to “Dr Julia Gillard”
  1. Lynne Newington says:

    Congratulations to Julia. As Australia’s first woman prime minister having to deal with appalling misogyny sexism and whatever else Tony Abbott threw at her, setting the bench mark for others of the same ilk including one or two women politicians who should’ve known better.

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