We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails

  • a speech delivered by Kwamina Asomaning, CE of Stanbic Bank at the 2022 graduation ceremony of Catholic University

I would like to thank the university’s Board and Management for the honour to be part of today’s graduation ceremony. I also extend my congratulations to the entire university community for receiving the Presidential Charter earlier this year. Finally, I acknowledge and applaud the many sacrifices of parents, friends and other family members of the graduating students.

May I please request the graduates to join me in expressing our appreciation to them with a round of applause. I bring you greetings from the board, management and staff of Stanbic Bank.  We are grateful for the opportunity to be part of this day, and equally proud to sponsor the Best Graduating Student of this university for the second year running.

I graduated 26 years ago, and quite sadly I don’t remember who the guest speaker was or what he or she said. But I remember that it was scorching hot and I couldn’t wait to get out of my gown. The lesson in there for me is that I keep this address short! Now to the graduating students, I wish to begin my conversation with a story.

Approximately 94 years ago – September 1928 to be precise – a Scottish researcher who had been experimenting with the influenza virus in a London laboratory made a startling discovery on his return home from vacation. Often described as a careless scientist, he observed that a mould had developed on a culture plate that had been accidentally contaminated. Upon close examination of the mould, he noticed that it prevented the growth of bacteria.

Sir Alexander Fleming was the scientist, and the unplanned intrusion that nearly wrecked his research led to the discovery of Penicillin.   He also won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1945, as this discovery was a lifesaving medication that helped reduce the number of amputations and deaths of troops during World War II.  Fleming is credited as saying: “One sometimes finds what one is not looking for. When I woke up just after dawn on September 28, 1928, I certainly didn’t plan to revolutionise all of medicine by discovering the world’s first antibiotic, or bacteria killer.  But I guess that was exactly what I did”.

My story is similar – however, I did not win the Nobel Prize.  I studied the sciences while in secondary school and dreamed of pursuing a career in automotive engineering.  But my plan to attend university abroad fell through. I enrolled at the University of Ghana to pursue a degree in Business Administration, Accounting Option. I never set out to be a banker, but today here I am – leading a bank that is passionate about driving Africa’s and Ghana’s growth with innovative and best-in-class solutions.


Indeed, the current turbulent conditions in Ghana and globally may be unsettling for members of the Class of 2022.  But drawing from the story of Alexander Fleming and many others, we are emboldened by the knowledge that out of adversity comes great opportunities which ultimately benefit society.

An often-shared quote provides even more directness on how to turn adversity into opportunities, and it goes like this – ‘We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails’. As new graduates beginning your voyage, may I share some nuggets of advice on how I believe you can sail through those winds that we cannot direct!

First – personal attribute

Seek God first. It is no coincidence that the United States – arguably the most prosperous nation on earth, has as its motto and inscribed on its currency ‘In God we trust’. Maybe we should consider inscribing that on the cedi to give it some stability. If you put your trust in Him, He’ll direct your path to adjust your sails. He will also equip you with the qualities that you need to undertake your voyage successfully. Some these include the following:

  • Courage – to face life’s challenges and to take bold decisions!
  • Tenacity! – to hold onto your beliefs and ideas!
  • Perseverance – to continue irrespective of failures!
  • Curiosity – to explore and discover new possibilities!
  • Dedication – to invest and commit time, resources and effort!
  • Consistency – to do it right, every time and all the time!

This is not a sermon. Yet I am not ashamed to let you know, 26 years after graduation, that all I am today is by the grace of God.

Second  – your approach to career

Secondly, with the current turbulence, this may be the best time to experiment with the many thoughts running through your mind. Be willing to break out a new round of opportunities and ideas. This is important because the world has redefined work as no longer a place you go, but rather a thing you do.

This paradigm shift increases the opportunities to pursue entrepreneurial dreams across many fields. The ongoing revolution is creating opportunities for human interactions, and new business models and reshaping the way firms compete with one another.

The founders of Facebook and Apple broke old moulds to establish their companies. Many of you may not know the name Khaby Lame. He is a Senegalese Social Media personality who earns upward of 50,000 dollars per post on TikTok. The 22-year-old lost his job in 2020 and started posting on TikTok. Today, he is the highest earner on that platform. I am not asking you to become another Khaby.

But I ask that you to broaden your minds to other areas of career opportunities. Do not restrict your career options to the public service, telecoms, banking, the law, medicine and teaching – which are equally important.

Third – the tools

The world is more digital than ever before.  Facebook did not exist when I graduated, and neither did Uber, TikTok, Google or Alibaba.  Linkedin, Youtube and Khan Academy also did not exist.  For those of you desirous of adjusting your sails to become more relevant in this new digital paradigm, there is good news.  Opportunities exist for you to gain proficiency in highly sought-after disciplines; in areas such as coding, web and app design, data science, and artificial intelligence. The Internet is awash with free tools on Google, LinkedIn Learning, Amazon and Web Services to chart a new path for your careers.

I know that you are looking forward to the next phase of your lives with anticipation. Some of you will further your education and others will enter the workforce after today. No matter how it turns out, take time to bask in the sun; take delight in the little pleasures of life and learn to live a bit.

In closing, I urge you to be ambassadors of this great institution and let the world know that you were once here.

Make the school’s motto your guide and let your light shine forth.

Scientiae Ac Sapientiae Lumen Splendeat.

Thank you.


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