Speech to graduates

Dear graduates!

Today is a day of celebration. You have achieved a significant milestone in your lives. Your family, friends, and the Faculty are celebrating your accomplishments too. Today the Ljusgården – the garden of light – is truly shining with your happy and confident smiles. Not so long ago (on Tuesday this week, to be specific) these smiles were still nervous and confused. Not any more.

One of the delightful moments of being a teacher in these Master Programs is to see the astonishing   transformation of hesitant but eager students into the confident, capable and competent graduates that you are now.

The word “graduation” comes from the Latin word “gradus”, which means a degree or step and “graduates” are those who have successfully finished this step in a course of their academic development. As you see, I have not said that this step is upwards, it can also lead side wards or in any other direction because the process of your transformation is very individual and it doesn’t stop here today.

However, today is a good day to look back and make sense of what this academic year has given you personally, on a deeper level than the courses you have completed and grades you have received. The issue of grades is a common topic among students and Faculty. As usual, students want higher grades since the university education is commonly cited as a prerequisite for a “good job” out in “the real world” ( both terms are very ambiguous) . The Faculty is, on the other hand, insisting that by caring about grades students are missing the whole point with education. Who is right?

If you ask my opinion on this matter, I would say that grades do matter but not as the symbols or numbers indicating your worth for your future employers or your social circle but, first of all, as a step in your internal development, and this step is purely qualitative. Only you can know what it is really worth!

Education is about knowing yourself better, understanding the world around you in a more profound way, and attempting to figure out your place in the world. “Knowing thyself,” as the ancient Greeks said, is by a long way more valuable than any material consequences of a diploma.

Grades don’t define us but graduation as a process of continuous development does. What actually defines us is the changes education makes within us. So maybe you have become a better team player, a devoted friend, a passionate blogger or a keen story writer. Or you have developed the passion of a researcher – from Old French re- + cerchier ‘to search intensively’. If you ask yourself these questions, you will most probably answer – yes, this has happened to me! And this is what makes education worthwhile and our today’s graduation very special.

So today I wish all of you an exciting journey into the discovery of your true self, your better self.  Now you have the academic tools to embark on this journey. Follow your passion! Let Ljusgården – the garden of light – be your port of departure.

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Thoughts after the graduation

“We have to start from the ground up and reconsider what education is. In my language, I’d like to see us educate the soul, and not just the mind. The result would be a person who could be in the world creatively, make good friendships, live in a place he loved, do work that is rewarding, and make a contribution to the community. People say that the word “educate” means to “draw out” a person’s potential. But I like the “duc” – part in the middle of it. To be educated is to become a duke, a leader, a person of stature and color, a presence and a character.” (Thomas Moore)

I’m reading this quote, which captures my today’s mood in the best possible way, and thinking about the graduation ceremony earlier today. Ljusgården, School of Economics, Lund University.

2 of our most popular programs have graduated today in this humble but solemn atmosphere of the school. It is heavy with traditions, it is very Swedish, too Swedish but at the same time modest in its most genuine way (Swedish born).

The faculty’s speeches were sincere but so reserved that my heart ached. Not a single extra emotion uttered. It was almost Spartan. And because of that the students’ speeches brought tears to my eyes. They were fun, sparkling, hearty, bold, ambitious, happy, daring….And they said what each and single teacher wants to hear – that we have touched their hearts, that they had good time here with us, that they met good friends and want to come back.

They were standing on the podium today – glamorous in their beautiful dresses, chic suits and sexy haircuts. Young. Happy, Friendly. Open. Hearts wide open. They hugged each other. They hugged me, they hugged the school. They laughed and it seemed that the whole world laughed with them. They were kings and queens.

And we had an honor to be invited to their party. Humble we were.