Eddie Friel speech at College of Hospitality and Tourism Convocation— Nov. 2, 2005

Reverend President, Reverend Fathers, distinguished guests, Dr. Praetzel:

I am delighted to be back at Niagara University. Having listened to what Dr. Praetzel just said, I am somewhat confused. Either I have great difficulty holding down a job or certainly, given what he said, my late mother would have been very proud; my father would have been very confused.

It is an enormous pleasure to be here, and on behalf of the other honorees, Fr. Levesque, we are really humbled to be invited to this university, above all universities, and to be honored by this one because this one is different. This one is about preparing young people for life as it is. It's about giving them a value set which is beyond an education. It's about giving them the rules of life, which will sustain them beyond just their education at the university. It will allow them to become leaders in their communities ... and it will allow them to be special in terms of the contributions they make. And that is what sets this university apart from others. It is not just about education.

I am here probably under false pretenses, which is usually the case for me. I accept everybody else's hard work, and then claim it was mine. And then people give me awards. It's a great thing to do.

Cities--and I'm particularly identified with one, which is Glasgow, in Scotland-- cities are very strange places. They are amazing. Armies create empires. Politicians create nations. Legislators create boundaries. But it is commerce that creates cities. Cities are not built on pity. They are centers of creativity and innovation which attract people with talent to come and work within that community. They require talent because it is creativity and innovation that creates wealth. And it is only by the creation of wealth that we can address the social ills that affect our communities, wherever they may be.

We now live in what is called a global economy. When we left the 20th century, we did so gratefully, and bade good riddance to it. Because national socialism and atheistic communism left the 20th century as the most destructive in the history of humankind. We chose to use creativity and innovation to destroy rather than to create.... We entered the 21st century full of aspirations and full of hope. And we had 9/11. And what that told us was that evil exists and will continue to exist for as long as man exists, because man is flawed. We have a challenge as human beings to relate to our communities, to try to use our creativity and innovation for positive means rather than negative.

When Glasgow began as a major international trading city, it did so with the United States, and it did so through tobacco. In 1775, Glasgow earned 2 billion pounds from the tobacco industry. In 1776, it earned 250,000. You had a little thing called The Declaration of Independence - thanks. What that did, overnight, was to cause an entire economy to collapse. Luckily, Glasgow University existed. Within Glasgow University we had James Watt, and he created the steam engine. Also in 1776, The Wealth of Nations was published by Adam Smith. And Glasgow was now the center of the Industrial Revolution. It wasn't just good at shipbuilding; it was the world capital of shipbuilding. And a great sense of community pride swelled in the hearts of Glasgow residents because they were building the great liners and the great ships that were sailing the world's oceans. And their sense of identity with their place was clear and focused. But that, too, was destined to die.

The collapse of their traditional industries of shipbuilding and heavy engineering brought, in its wake, the most appalling thing that can happen to a community. They were told they were surplus to requirement. They were condemned to poverty. They were condemned to a lack of hope. No one has the right to do that to any community anywhere. But that's what we did to an entire community - they were surplus to requirement. We are talking about human beings, not machines. We must learn how to deal with the transition and change which technology places upon us.

Today, whether we like it or whether we do not, we live in a global economy, which is divided into three major economic blocks. We have Asia and the Pacific Rim; we have Europe, East and West combined; and we have the Americas. And the unit of analysis of economic performance in the 21st century will be the urban region. We are going back to the European Renaissance city state, where we have to compete as a place to live, work, invest in, relocate to, attract visitors, or attract convention delegates. To do that, we must hone our skills as competitors. We have to be able to articulate what we have, which someone else wants or needs. And we have to be able to do that in a way which allows our community to move forward. We cannot allow a situation ever to exist again where we allow any section of our community to be condemned to poverty.

Tourism was seen as a solution to Glasgow's ills because it was a growth industry. Our challenge and our difficulty were in trying to get people to abandon yesterday because yesterday was comfortable, yesterday was easy, yesterday was easy to understand, it wasn't difficult. But tomorrow - now that is scary, because the 21st-century economy is global, and we must be able to compete. To compete, our cities and our communities have to be able to define what we have that no one else has got. We have to describe that in terms of a comparative advantage. And we find ourselves in the business of branding places. But if we are engaged in this activity, and if we need professionals to be able to move our cities forward to be competitive, and if we need to create the kind of climate with people that we need, then we need to have the skills to be able to do so.

If I may quote Charles Dickens, the very first sentence of "David Copperfield" says, "Whether I will be the hero of my own life, or whether that task will fall to someone else, these pages will show."

It is our duty as parents, it is our duty as teachers and educators, it is our duty as community leaders--we have a responsibility to create the conditions within our community that allow each and every single child to be the hero of their own lives. We have no right to place limitations upon their aspirations. We have no right to deny them hope.

Today, Glasgow may be very, very successful as a tourism destination. It has moved from having only fewer than 1,000 hotel rooms to 19,500 hotel rooms today. It has moved from employing fewer than 1,000 people to employing 65,000 people in the tourism industry today. So tourism is a vital component of the economic regeneration of any place. But we need to understand why we do it. And we do it so we can create the jobs for the young people of our community. We cannot abandon them.

But today, 27 percent of all students at school in Glasgow leave without a single qualification. That is happening in every other urban city in the developed economies. This is not unique. We are creating two-tier cities between those who have and those who have not. And we do so at our peril. You will have two communities - those who are gated, defending what they have from those who have not, wanting to take by force. Are those the kinds of cities that we want to create for the future? Of course, they are not. But how do we stop that from happening?

By the grace of God, by having places like Niagara University, where the value system is based on family, where people care, where the idea of service is not servile, but where the idea of commitment, caring, and a loving community is concerned about your fellow man. Only in this university can you get those values. To be honored by this university, I am humbled indeed. And on behalf of my fellow honorees, I thank you all very much indeed.

Eddie Friel is managing director of EFA Tourism and City Marketing of Glasgow, Scotland, and former chief executive of the Greater Glasgow and Clyde Valley Tourist Board.