The Malta Independent 13 December 2018, Thursday

You need to rock the boat

Andrew Azzopardi Wednesday, 5 December 2018, 10:31 Last update: about 8 days ago

These last weeks we are celebrating our students’ achievements, best represented in their graduation.  Almost 320 students graduated at Diploma, Bachelor, post-grad certification, Masters and PhD from the Faculty for Social Wellbeing.  It is always very satisfying to see so many graduates and their relatives and friends grinning from ear to ear.  Ours were only three from the 28 graduations held at the University of Malta.  

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I am proud to say that our student cohorts included a student with tetraplegia, a student with physical disabilities, a visually impaired person, a number of students with mental health issues and a student with a rare form of Huntington’s all graduating on the same day.  I am obviously over the moon and so proud of my Faculty, all our staff, the 9 Departments and the UM support services.  I must admit, it is what keeps me going because we are here not for the strongest (in the way society depicts them) but the bravest and the smartest.

That is why in my Oration I said that it is time to hand over the baton.  I opened my speech by saying that;

I would love to have got to know you individually and the beautiful stories you carry in your hearts and maybe other narratives of pain, ache and discomfort.  Now as you graduate you have opened up your souls to graciousness.

At this point, a quote that comes to mind is from that 1965 musical, The Sound of Music when Mother Abbess says;

‘Maria, these walls were not meant to shut out problems.  You have to face them.  You have to live the life you were born to live.’

A quote embodied by another one from Dante Alighieri’s, The Divine Comedy, when he says;

‘Consider your origin. You were not formed to live like brutes but to follow virtue and knowledge.’ (Inferno 26)

But I went on to say the say that now that they are on the verge of starting to settle in their professions and/or new jobs they need to keep in mind their commitment to the greater good;

Please recognize your thoroughness not only to your discipline and profession but to your communities.

You are now equipped to take it on. 

It is not good enough that you got your degree - it is now pay-back time! 

You must contribute to the transformations you want in your communities.

The fact that we are a University means that we are, or at least should be, free thinkers and should not succumb to pressure.  I go on to say;

This is what is so special about our 400-year-old Institution.  We are not only about dishing out degrees or being subservient to the industry and services.  We should be savouring what lies embedded in you.  You are the ones that will lead and the ones to set the agenda. 

Be as controversial and contentious and provocative as you feel you need to.  Don’t shy away – let yourself be guided by your moral and ethical compass. 

We are here to rock the boat.

I did give a bit of a background where I came from;

Yes, I admit, I am from the generation that idolised the Sex Pistols. From the generation of that naughty glitter ball as we boogied to the Bee Gees, Gloria Gaynor, ABBA, and the Sunshine Band, The Village People and Donna Summer.  We shook our hips to progressive rock, New Wave and funk & soul.  From the generation of the first Concorde supersonic flight, when the Jumbo Jet came into service, the first Earth Day and when the Beatles disbanded and the era when gay and lesbian persons and other marginalized people continued their fight for equality.

For me it is the right time to pass on the baton, with many regrets that my generation hasn’t done enough;

I am now passing on the stick. 

I am annoyed that my generation has failed our communities.

Regrettably,

·         we wanted to have a better society where people can live together harmoniously and instead we gave you a political dialect that is close to nonsense;

·         we wanted to give you an environment that represents our collective memories but instead we gave you concrete and tarmac, tower cranes and devastation; 

·         we promised you improved institutions, a smaller Government, a bigger State, a stronger civil society and instead we give you worn out structures that are still quibbling with injustice;

·         we wanted to give you inclusion, democracy and instead gave you political correctness with hardly any conviction; 

·         we aspired to have a good economy, that would eventually lift up those at the bottom of the heap and instead gave you wealth without telling you how best to use it – and here we are, struggling with understanding the economics of happiness.

My only hope is the new graduates and the quality of people we have trained;

But I am buoyant because you are a gifted crowd.

You go kick ass. You go do what you got to do.  It is in your hands now, the task of you graduands is to shred the miscellanies of that outmoded belief which you note around you. Go spread the news – ‘class 2018 is here, and here to change and to deliver the goods.’  Do not be taken over by fear or diffidence but face the wrath of society.

Please don’t ever get in my positon of having to share in an Oration the disillusionment in one’s own generation.

Make sure that when it is your turn to be on whatever podium you will stand on in your life you will be speaking of achievements and not let-downs, of love towards self, others and country and not disenchantment. 

Helen Keller said;

‘...alone we can do so little, together we can do so much...’

My final appeal was;

So here we go – here comes my battle cry. 

I won’t go as far as the Spartan Army and say; “Everybody aim for that one guy on the left!” – that might be slightly too drastic... What I am asking for is that we consider using the Mongolian conqueror Genghis Khan’s battle cry, who, let us face it is not our pin up boy either, but his battle cry resonates a bit of our Faculty: “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!”

Wear your panoply and stand up to what you believe.  You do what we have not managed to do well enough.  You ensure that social wellbeing is not simply measured by dosh but by love.  

The proverbial claim that the collective works more than individuality, is true, very true. 

We are in this together. 

We will stand shoulder-to-shoulder even if we are physically away from each other….   

 

 

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