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Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell and current Canadian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland speaks at a Board of Trade luncheon in Vancouver in 2012.

Jeff Vinnick/The Globe and Mail

British Columbia's former premier finally has a law degree – more than 40 years after he abandoned the effort and forged a political career.

Gordon Campbell received an honorary law degree at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, where he addressed 71 students of the law school's inaugural convocation.

"It's a great honour," he said in an interview Saturday, when he was one of seven recipients of an honorary law degree.

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Campbell said he lasted four days at the University of British Columbia's law school in his early 20s.

Now the Canadian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Campbell said the degree represents the benefits of the law faculty to the province.

"I know I have to share it with so many people here in Kamloops," he said.

It was under Campbell's time as premier that the University College of the Cariboo became Thompson Rivers University in 2005. He was also involved in establishing the faculty of law at TRU.

"It is an exceptional recognition and it touches your heart when you have something like this happen," he said.

"You see what communities can do when they come together around mutual vision."

However, Campbell had his detractors.

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His two-term reign as premier in B.C. came with its fair share of controversy, including a drunk-driving arrest in Hawaii, the BC Rail scandal and the introduction of the HST, over which he resigned in 2011.

Facing questions of his suitability as the law faculty's inaugural honorary degree recipient, Campbell said he wasn't bothered by the criticism.

"I think that one of the things that we have to recognize in Canada is people are allowed to have different opinions," he said. "I spent 27 years as an elected official. I know there are people that don't like decisions.

"It goes with the territory of being an elected leader, but you know what? The privilege of being an elected leader, whether it's mayor or premier, whether it's MLA or councillor, it's just something that you can't express. It's an enormous privilege to live in a country like Canada and have an opportunity to do that."

During his address to law graduates, Campbell told them it would be what they did, not just what they said, that would determine their ability to help others.

He asked students to leave convocation with three things in mind – themselves, the law and magic.

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"Boldness has genius, power and magic in it," he said.

Kamloops This Week

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