"Congratulations on your graduation!"
This spring, the Graduation Ceremony will not be what it usually is. But LTH's dean Viktor Öwall would still like to congratulate all who normally would have been in the University Hall's auditorium to receive their diploma. Here you can watch the film or read the speech where Viktor Öwall wishes those who have graduated at LTH the best of luck after their studies.
– Publicerad den 25 May 2020
So, here we are again in the beautiful month of May, a time when LTH traditionally holds its graduation ceremony. It is usually a day of pomp and circumstance. A day when the University´s auditorium is filled to the brim with graduates, family and friends. There are banners and music!
But today I stand here alone in this empty hall!
Because despite everything I want to give you some guiding words on this day – your day!
Not to be able to meet you in person on this day feels really sad. Sad, as so many other things during this strange spring when the corona pandemic came upon us. However, when considering what’s going on in the world, we must reflect upon that a cancelled graduation ceremony is just that. Unfortunately, it is a bright memory that you will not be able to carry with you on your journey through life, but it is just that! When we put it into perspective in relation to the enormous sufferings the pandemic has bestowed upon the world, this is after all a minor thing. The spring of 2020 will be remembered as the time when the pandemic spread across the globe.
There are many who have lost their loved ones during the pandemic and of course our thoughts go out to them. We also have healthcare and elderly care system that is fighting on its knees. A large part of society is closed down with as yet unknown consequences to the economy. Many companies have filed for bankruptcy and many are the people who have gone into unemployment and face other sufferings. We are seeing this across the globe!
After all we must be grateful that Sweden is a society that has social safety nets that at least can limit some of the consequences of the pandemic. In many places in the world and for most people, this is lacking!
For you, Dear Graduates, the pandemic meant that we closed down campus almost overnight and switched to digital education. One day we held exams on campus and the next it was digital. Were we prepared? No, but we managed.
I am deeply impressed by all the efforts made to succeed in this transformation. Our teachers have really performed an incredible task and you, dear students, have really been up to the task of sharing our burden during these tough times.
Have we been able to perform this transformation while maintaining the quality we are used to? No, not really. But we did it and we learn while doing it.
I am convinced that this transition will serve us well when we are ready to open up for campus-based education again.
In a broader perspective you become encouraged when you see all the unselfish acts being performed when the virus is putting us and our society to the test. We see so many examples of creativity, cooperation and compassion. At LTH, both employees and students were ready when the university hospital made a cry for help when they were running out of personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer. We scoured through our stashes, we initiated the production of hand sanitiser and our makerspace X-lab took the initiative to produce over 10 000 protective visors within a few weeks.
For me this represents why I think LTH is so fantastic.
Our vision is: Together we explore and create – to benefit the world.
And that is really true - when the going gets tough and the circumstances drastically change, we work hard together to solve it – to the benefit of the world!
However, a crisis usually shines a light on both of what is good and what is bad in our society. We saw the lack of preparedness for the pandemic that many had warned should come. We have seen the hoarding of food, toilet paper and hand sanitiser which means that those who really need it cannot get hold of it. We have seen countries closing their borders to keep medical equipment to themselves. This is even true within the EU, a union in which open borders and solidarity are key values. Just as during the refugee crisis in 2015, the EU was not up to the task when it was challenged!
Or, as the chairman of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen stated: “When Europe really needed to be there for each other, too many initially looked out for themselves. When Europe really needed an ‘all for one' spirit, too many initially gave an ‘only for me' response.”
I hope that one day we will learn to stand up for our declarations and our key values!
These are indeed strange times we are living in and right now the corona pandemic is overshadowing just about everything. Things have really changed overnight! Just six months ago I was standing in this very hall, talking about another event that changed the world literally overnight: the tumbling down of the Berlin wall in 1989!
I talked about the dangers of building walls and growing nationalism!
I talked about the threats against democracy!
I talked about fake news and the increasing disregard for science and knowledge!
And those threats are as real today as they were back then. It can be illustrated with the absurd press conferences of the US president Donald Trump with claims about everything from cures for Covid-19 to who is to blame for the pandemic. We also see authoritarian governments, like the ones in Hungary and Brazil, using the pandemic to dismantle democracy.
When societies are badly hit by the effects of the pandemic, there is a risk that nationalism and isolationism will spread.
We who are educated at one of the world´s leading universities have a special responsibility to stand up for facts, knowledge, logical thinking and common sense. Let’s take it!
The world is facing great challenges in the areas such as climate, energy, water, waste, famine, migration … and to that we now add global pandemics!
But there is hope. We have you: graduates from LTH.
YOU are needed more than ever!
Technology, architecture and design is not the problem in the challenges facing society today.
They are an integrated part of the solution!
You are an integrated part of the solution!
Even if I personally cannot hand out your diplomas it feels great to be able to congratulate you today when you are entering a new phase of your lives. You, dear graduates, represent the most essential part of the University. The students!
Or as the former Rector of Twente University in the Netherlands expressed it:
A university without research is a bad university. A university without students is no university!
You are the new problem solvers. You are wanted out there and the need for your knowledge, skills and spirits of cooperation is enormous.
Personally, I hope that we will see a boost in creativity, cooperation and human compassion in the wake of the corona pandemic – and I hope that we will work together to resist nationalism, xenophobia and scapegoating.
So, some guiding words as you set out on your road ahead:
Life takes many unexpected twists and turns. Grab the opportunities when they come.
You have a solid education from LTH. It is a strong foundation!
When you see an opportunity, a problem waiting to be solved, ask yourself:
If not I, who? If not now, when?
Or in the words of the great American President Theodore Roosevelt:
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are”!
I truly hope you will look back at your student time with good memories and that you will act as good ambassadors for your Alma Mater.
You are needed!
Work for the benefit of the world!
Make us proud!
Congratulations on your graduation!
Dean of LTH