Students from our Master's in Public Policy and Human Development (2018-19) marked the end of their course at a festive ceremony in Sint Janskerk, Maastricht.
This year's event featured a number of innovations, including a musical reception and artistic gifts for the students, who wore elegant blue stoles adorned with the logos of UNU-MERIT and Maastricht University.
Various guest speakers spoke in turn to congratulate the students on their successful study year in Maastricht and wish them well for the future. The ceremony was also the perfect occasion to première our brand new MPP video film. See below for a selection of excerpts.
When you get into positions where you are a decision maker and where you have the opportunity to change things – whether that be in an international organisation, a national government, an NGO or a private firm – be bold and be courageous in your decision making. Recognise that by being bold you are more likely to make mistakes. As Samuel Beckett, the Irish playwright and Nobel laureate once wrote: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” In other words, don’t let those mistakes stop you in your desire for change, but instead learn from those mistakes.
I would add one more thing to this – a lesson that relates to your time here with us and something again highlighted by the students in the board meeting last week – and this is the importance of learning from those around you, of the co-creation of solutions to problems, and of the importance of diversity in the decision making process and in helping to solve the problems you face.
In spite of – and perhaps because of – some of the challenges I mentioned earlier, there's a world of opportunity out there. We hope to have equipped you well – both in terms of content knowledge but also in terms of the softer skills that are increasingly important in today’s world – to take advantage of those opportunities and to make the kinds of positive changes that our board heard about last week. We wish you luck in that endeavour and encourage you to come back and tell us about your successes.
We believe in the value of diversity. We know that working with and for diversity is difficult, but we believe that in the diversity we learn to be humble, we learn to acknowledge our own limitations and strengths, and we learn that that diversity of skills, competences, and knowledge, provides us with all the pieces needed to tackle the complexity embedded in societal problems.
During this year you gained the skills needed to work in policy. You read, discussed, and met different opinions, and different points of views. I hope that this experience helped you to know yourself better, to know who you are and how you want to participate in society. Do know that we are here for you, and that it is our hope that we stay in touch and that we keep on working together.
I would like to thank you all for coming to this special event. I’m glad that so many of you came -- you can see the people you love with a big smile and pride on their faces. I would like to thank all of our teachers and tutors for providing this beautiful journey we experienced throughout this year. I have to thank all of our cohort mates for their support and strength for surviving the year and not only surviving but thriving through it while showing the true heart of MPP continuously supporting each other and making this possible for all of us.
I would like to thank Julieta specifically for being there and helping us and putting hard work into this programme while always listening to our recommendations and trying to make everything possible for us. Thank you Julieta, and there is one specific thank you towards Danny Beckers: thank you for your hard work and thank you organising this memorable event.
For me nothing from this could have been achieved without my parents who came here all the way from Slovakia by car and supported me during the year and it wasn’t easy and I’m sure sometimes I really got on their nerves, but I love them, I love that they believed in me in times when I wasn’t able to believe anymore.
I followed the Risk and Vulnerability track. In this track they teach you how to predict, avoid, mitigate, and manage disasters of any type. We talked about a lot of rather depressing topics in our classes. I can tell you that I at least learned a hundred ways of how we might die. But it also gave insight in how to stay positive amid all the awful things happening in the world.
At UNU we do not talk about the easiest subjects. The challenges we are presented with are often complex, multi-dimensional, multi-stakeholder, multi-country, and even multi-what else. We learned, each in our own way, to find ways out of these challenges. We try to see the positive in difficult dilemmas. We need to, otherwise these challenges will eat you alive and who else will take responsibility and do something about it?
Graduates-to-be, we are all destined for greatness. Each and every one of us has the potential to change the world. You have to constantly re-identify yourself to yourself, reactivate your own standards and your own convictions about what you are doing and why you are doing that. Because in the end it is the United Nations University which united us and helped us to think good in this past year.
We want to be able to talk about policies in depth, where we know how they are made, where it is not about what favours we have to call in or to give to someone else in order to get higher on the political ladder. We wanted to have the technical knowledge, the analytical aspect that in my opinion most people in governing positions lack.
Yes, we are optimistic, and for now uncorrupted. But we need people like that. And we need people like our cohort, that will do research, that will collect data, that will advise organisations and institutions on what to do. And if we ever get that far, and our cohort will be spread out across the world, we will still know where we will have to go to get the best evidence... Thank you for giving us one of the most rewarding and best years of our lives. I know it was one of the best of mine.
Our capacity to rise to the occasion is partly a function of education, but for a great part, it is also a function of our ability to be the change we want to see. On the last day of class I met with the social protection specialisation group, I had a bunch of magnets with inspirational quotes, and each one picked a quote. What I found very interesting is that the first magnet that came out said, “Don’t let fear stop you from doing what you love”.
Fear of change, is probably one of the biggest obstacles that you will face in your life. In reality, fear is one of the most common reasons for resistance to change. Fear divides. Fear builds walls. Fear breeds hatred, and personally fear of failure is the biggest preventer of dreams. Nelson Mandela once said: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave one is not who does not feel afraid, but who conquers that fear.”
So, if you don’t remember anything from what I have said today, remember this… that underneath your fears lies great opportunities. Because when you start doing the things that scare you the most, tearing down the invisible barricades that separate you from what you want, you become the person you’ve always dreamed about becoming, your “ideal self” your true self. . Fear will always be around to tell you what you can’t do, can’t be, shouldn’t do and wouldn’t be… but it is up to only you to face your fears, and tell yourself that you can and you will. Only you have the power within your reach to create what you desire… believe that.
I would like to close my speech with a few lines from the late French author Albert Camus. And it goes “My dear, In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love. In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile. In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm. I realised, through it all, that… In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”
Always seek the invincible summer within you… Take responsibility for your happiness. Be kind to others. Pursue goodness in the world. Seek out your passion, and you will inevitably find what you are looking for. Many thanks for your courtesy. Congratulations to each one of you. And my warmest wishes for a satisfying, content and peaceful life.