President’s Message


Once Upon A Time



We understand the signals: there will be a story now. Have you been listening? Are you ready to tell your story?

Aristotle claimed there were just two plots underlying all the stories humankind could ever tell. Rudyard Kipling posited 69. Kurt Vonnegut diagrams three, while Joseph Campbell spent a lifetime arguing that there is only one.

Whatever the number, it is through story that the seven billion of us express both our deep differences and the startling similarities that connect us—storyteller to listener, culture to culture, generation to generation. And here at UBC, commitment upon commitment. We tell one another who we are and what the world means to us through our stories. We say who we are just as clearly by the voices and stories we suppress.

As my work takes me all over the globe, I’m noticing a curious trend: we are becoming a generation of story eaters. Texts, emails, blogs, the dailies, radio, TV, movies … we consume them all with insatiable appetite. Like our perilous love affair with junk food, though, this obsession with fast-format fact and fiction leaves us fat on words but starving for meaning.

Good stories nourish us. Great ones can inspire us to action. And the very best are the ones we make ourselves by the lives we live.

The future belongs to the best storytellers. To those with stories about difference and understanding. Medicine and healing. Shared abundance. Power and responsibility. Privilege and service. Art and knowledge. The planet, and the hopeful persistence of life.

As we move into our second century as an institution, the future is unwritten—yours and UBC’s and that of the global community we serve. What we learn, discover, and contribute together will depend entirely on the sincerity of our commitments.

Take some time to decide. Use the stories here as your starting point, but break the surface of them and dive deeper. Use the links and your intuition to explore what lies beneath. You’ll find that each story is connected by our commitment to bringing it to life. And when you’re ready, begin:

Once upon a time …