In this kind of speech it is customary to focus on past events while acknowledging the achievements of student and stating the confidence we have in their future. But, if I had waited until now to acknowledge that, I would consider myself to be a very poor educator, so I sincerely hope that you all know very well by now how much I appreciate your accomplishments and believe in you.
Instead I would like to use this last opportunity to present a request.
Please look at the sky.
“if the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore, and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile” and I cite- Ralph Waldo Emerson, from Nature and Selected Essays, chapter 1.
Many times in my life I have looked at the sky and wondered about the beauty of light in our life. What are the shining lights which brighten up the night and help us function in the dark? Do we even notice them and cherish their value?
“Please look at the sky”.
This is what I used to ask my history students every year and I told them that not even a thousand years ago, just about 384 years ago, a scientist who also looked at the sky like you was called to trial. He was accused of teaching and publishing dangerous ideas from his observations and the censured work of others. He was found guilty and ended his life excluded from society just because he dared to teach what he perceived as a simple truth. Galileo did not have the privileges of teaching, of sharing his insights and his ideas, and people around the world were prevented from learning, from opening their minds to new options, from challenging their perspectives, from knowing. Those fundamental concepts that light our lives without us even noticing were not evident then. Unfortunately, they are not evident to many people around the globe even now as we speak.
Please look at the sky.
Those small lights are bravely fighting the darkness. We have seen the attempts of darkness to hide the light throughout the centuries. The concepts and values that serve our world by giving us the freedom to receive a proper education, to think and express ourselves without fear, to know the world and its mysteries, to make our own choices, to be ourselves, to love who we want and to be who we want- they are constantly under jeopardy and should never being taken lightly. From North America, through to Europe and all the way here to the Middle East, there are forces that look at what we take for granted and try to destroy it. This beauty of light given to us by the values of the Enlightenment must always be protected.
When you look at the sky
Please remember that most of the stars that we see shining so brightly, though they might be extremely magnificent and powerful, some of them are actually planets who do not have a light of their own, but rather reflect back the light given to them. We are like the stars and planets. Talented and bright as we might be, some forces come from within and some of our light comes from the concepts and the values of our society, the ray of light of our world.
So here is my request to you, my beloved graduating stars and planets,
Please stop from time to time, wherever you are around the globe, and look at the sky. And please ask yourselves- what do I reflect back?
You have an immense amount of inner powers and capabilities, but they do not stand alone. The knowledge, open-mindedness and embracement of diversity that we have celebrated here at EMIS every single day needs to be reflected also to the outside world. I am a witness of your ability to shine and stand firmly for your beliefs. Now please stand with us on the right side of this crucial task of protecting those precious lights.
We need you, we trust you.
Your light is our future. Thank you and good luck!