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Prof Crampton recently stood down as pro-vice-chancellor, health sciences, and Otago Medical School dean.
He was commenting in an address to graduates, mainly in medicine and physiotherapy, at the 1pm graduation ceremony at the Dunedin Town Hall on Saturday.
Bracken was a journalist, poet and politician, and his phrase "bonds of love", from the anthem also reflected Prof Crampton’s theme.
Bracken won the Dunedin Central parliamentary seat in 1881, and had, in a parliamentary speech, attacked the government’s dealings with Parihaka Maori in Taranaki, and what he saw as a "dishonourable breaching" of the Treaty of Waitangi".
Prof Crampton told the graduates he shared with Bracken an interest "in the history of Parihaka" and "what it represents to New Zealand in terms of non-violent resistance".
Prof Crampton said he could carry on "making links, and weaving the flax bonds that bind us all within our country and between all of our countries".
Graduates were now bound together by those bonds, and to their families and friends.
The careers and travels of graduates would "scatter many of you to the four corners of the globe" but their friendships and family connections "will remain with you forever", he said.
In an address to a second graduation ceremony at 4pm, pharmacy researcher and Otago pharmacy graduate Leanne Te Karu reflected on leadership and "the very ancient and sacred art of Polynesian ocean voyaging". Some anthropologists had described this Polynesian long-distance voyaging as "the greatest feat of our species", and this was also a story of "vision and leadership".
She reminded graduates less than 1% of the world’s population had a tertiary undergraduate degree.
She urged students, before they began "the next stage of your own voyage", to realise "you have had the privilege of tutelage from a world-class university and to apply that tutelage to the common good".