Speeches from the Opening Ceremony

September 3, 2012 § 4 Comments

The majority of yesterday’s Opening Ceremony consisted of a series of speeches. Both Skjalg and I greatly appreciate a good speech, one that has the power to awe and inspire, to motivate and persuade its audience into a state of reflection. I expected the speeches to be directed solely at the incoming students, at the journey we are about to embark on, and was therefore a bit taken aback by their political undertone. Some of the speeches went beyond basic inspiration into a sort of underlying political battle about government funding in education.

The first speech was by the Minister of State. There were two points highlighted in her speech that, in my opinion, detracted from its inspirational competency:

  1. Directed to the Hungarian students: It is the moral, ethical, economic, and patriotic duty of the Hungarian students to stay in their country for at least 10-12 years after they have completed their education in order to give back to the people that have paid taxes from their “meager wages” to fund students’ educations. She said that too many graduated students selfishly flee to other countries to make more money “before the ink on their diplomas have dried”.
  2. Directed to the professors: The government is aware that many of the international students receive significantly more in student aid than the professors annual salaries. It has been difficult, during these hard economical times, to find a way to allocate more money to the educational sector. She then said (and I am paraphrasing, from the best of Skjalg and my memory) “We are paying the debt – even though it is not our fault that it is so (you know as well as I do that we didn’t take up the loans, we are just paying them!)”

I understand, and am sensitive to the fact, that each country has its own political issues and that these issues are approached in different manners. However, I have to admit that I felt a bit uncomfortable during the read-between-the-line portions of the speeches. I got the impression that these issues were big topics that were starving for an open dialogue between the proper parties. Instead of passively arguing their sides in front of the entire incoming freshman class, it may have been better for the parties involved to hold an open meeting and invite interested students. That said, I appreciated the chance to experience the perspectives on these issues from both sides. We learned, at least, that Hungarian students are too quick to move to other countries to make more money, that professors are aggravated that they make less money than the international students receive in aid, and that the University would like more money invested in its education and research platforms.

I wish I had recorded the first speech, as it was the best example of the political nature of the speeches, but I didn’t consider it until she had moved on from this topic. The majority of the speeches were in Hungarian, with English text projected on screens on either side of the stage. I have re-produced two of the speeches exactly as they were displayed: the Rector’s speech and the Student Representative’s speech. The Rector of the University’s speech was quite long, so I have organized it into two parts: the portion of his speech directed at first year students and the speech in its entirety, for those interested in reading the whole thing.

Student Representative

Honourable Minister of State, 

Honourable Rector,

Honourable Deans, 

Distinguished Guests, 

My Dear Fellow Students,

The world might end in 2012, according to the Mayans, while others don’t believe the year 2013 has much good in store for us either. But don’t be afraid, and don’t worry about the predictions, because this, now, is Your future!

Many of you have wanted to become doctors since you were little. Others, myself included, chose the medical profession at a later time. But, whichever group you may belong to, the day has arrived: soon, you will launch your ships and, like the captain about to embark on his maiden voyage, will write 2012/2013 on the opening page on your logbook as the date of your first departure. 

My Dear Fellow Students, 

As you stand at the gates of higher education, the hope of a new life may gleam before your eyes. But, there is also a long road behind you. You did not “carelessly set upon strumming on the strings”, for you are here today as the result of hard work, persistent diligence and successful final exams. 

Never forget where you started from, because remembering is like a ship’s keel: to the casual observer, it is merely an unnecessary burden but, during a storm, it keeps the ship stable. 

You can expect stormy winds at the University, which is not a bad thing, for a calm sea does not breed skillful sailors. 

However, you should bear in mind that the most powerful air currents – be they called anatomy or physiology exams – are, sooner or later, followed by periods of calm. So just hold your sails firmly and persistently, and then your ships will be set to sail on the Sea of Medical Science. 

Over the new few years, your journey will be guided by the University’s lighthouses. These are navigation lights, which today – as in the centuries past – are determined by a strong tie to tradition, as well as openness to new ideas, or, to use the modern word: innovation. 

Be proud of the fact that you are Semmelweis University students!

More than a thousand publications are produced within our institution’s walls, and the Semmelweis name has become an international brand that is coupled with the guarantee of quality. 

No matter which corner of the Earth you choose to visit before you finally anchor down at your home port, ships bearing the flag of Semmelweis University are warmly welcomed everywhere. 

Dare to dream of faraway harbours, but don’t get lost in the obscurity of the future. For, the problem with the future is that, once we say the word, its beginning is already part of the past, and so those who are always fleeing to the future have, in reality, buried themselves in the past. Make sure You live in the present!

Many will travel on your ship for whom you’ll bear responsibility, and so you cannot be satisfied with the promise of treasure islands to be attained in four or more years’ time. Necessitas ante rationem est – necessity is stronger than deliberation!

My Dear Fellow Students,

Use your time wisely, and take care to always complete the given day’s tasks; otherwise, after a semester taken too lightly, you’ll spend the exam period walking “in search of lost time”. Strive to be a little better each day, let the diligence, knowledge and success of your classmates serve as a motivating force.

But, even during the struggles of the university, you must keep in mind that, once you leave the walls of the classroom, you will be working together with the same people who had been your rivals in academic competition. Healing, after all – whether you become a doctor, pharmacist or allied health worker – is team work. To return from the waters, the Spanish national football team owes much of its success to the fact that the players of two competing world class football teams, once placed on the same team, are able to work together.

A saying by Hippocrates suggests this same notion:

Two men are sawing a log: one man pulls, while the other pushes, but still, they do the same work, and by making the log smaller, they make it greater.  

My Dear Fellow Students, 

You are not preparing for a profession, but a vocation. So, for You, university is not merely a school, but a mission, the successful completion of which will enable you to take up your calling, both mentally and emotionally. 

I wish You much faith and perseverance in this mission!

On behalf of Semmelweis University: welcome among us!

Rector of the University 

Portion directed to First Year Students

For You, first-year students, the beginning of the new academic year is a tremendous experience, since you will find out in the coming weeks whether you have made the right choiceIn other words, you will see whether you have set your target upon the faculty and major which will allow you to practice a profession which suits you, and whether you will be capable of fulfilling the obligations described above.

Allow me to share with you a well-known parable:

A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it. Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture. Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and chocked out the tender plants. Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!

Clearly, there will be some among you, who will not be able to keep pace with the course work, and will fall behind. There will be others, who will realise that they should have applied to a different program, and will transfer. There will be still others who, in hopes of easier advancement and a higher income, will leave their vocation. Nonetheless, we firmly believe that the majority of you will learn the content of the curriculum with joy and enthusiasm and, in a few years’ time, will be practicing your vocation with you well-earned diploma in hand. 

Many of you will become masters yourselves, with more and more new students, thus increasing the University’s crop manyfold. 

The grape berry is a small fruit; still, it takes a whole summer to ripen – Szilveszter the apostle muses in Sándor Petőfi’s poem.

How much more time, effort and money is required for a student to ripen, or, in other words, for the seed planted in fertile soil to grow and become a professional, a master!

This is precisely why we need to invest not less, but increasingly more in higher education, research and innovation, as the nation’s development and advancement is essentially determined by its intellectual potential. Recovery from the current economic crisis is inconceivable without a multitude of cultivated individualsReturns on the investment will, however, take much longer to come than in the case of, say, a bank or car manufacturer. 

In the words of Nobel Laureate György Oláh: 

The future must be invested in, and the best investment a nation can make is the education of its youth.

The situation of our resident doctors doubly underlines the value of a higher education qualification in the medical sciences. First, through the fact that their departure from Hungary leaves behind a gap which cannot be filled, and second, when they superbly hold their own abroad, and permanently abandon the idea of coming home.

My wish is for all of You to hold your own in Hungary!

Let me conclude my speech with an admonition by Péter Pázmány, which speaks to master and student alike:

Fear God, study diligently, and faithfully serve your nation, your homeland.

Rector of the University 

Entire Speech

Honourable Minister of State, 

Dear Colleagues,

Dear New and Returning Students, 

Dear Guests, 

The opening of the new academic year is a celebration of commencement and recommencement, of setting goals and, at the same time, preserving values. On this occasion, I would like to extend my warmest and most respectful welcome to all those students who are beginning their studies at our 243 year-old University this year, whose faith and determination we are really counting on during, not only this year, but in the years to follow as well. 

This is the first time I am standing before You as Rector, and so my welcome address is, to a certain degree, a rector’s creed as well;

the central idea of this creed is that the primary task of a university is education. 

Therefore, all the activities which the University undertakes – such as medical care, and in the medical, dental, pharmaceutical, health and sport sciences – serves, foremost, to expand Your knowledge, a notion which I shall expand upon below. 

The true essence of today’s celebration is the joy which I feel over the fact that professors and students are able to act together in the spirit of universitas.

For what is the meaning of university? The universitas is an ensemble of masters and students, or, in the words of Kúnó Klebelsberg, Minister of Culture between the two world wars, a “collective“whose members, working in various scientific fields, devote all their efforts to acquiring and transmitting the latest knowledge to each other

This is not a slip of the tongue: they transmit the knowledge to each other

A good student plays an active role in the educational process: she poses questions to her master, thus prompting him to think further and expand upon his existing knowledge while, as a member of the Students’ Sceintific Association or as a Ph.D. student, she acquires the knowledge through her research work, which enriches also her master and Alma Mater. 

Europe’s first university began its operations in Bologna in 1088, and it is from this date that we trace the name university

Hungary’s oldest continuously operating university was founded by Cardinal Péter Pázmány at Nagyszombat in 1635. Semmelweis University was established by Queen Mária Terézia in 1769 as the Medical Faculty of this university. 

Two hundred years later, it took on the name of its former professor Ignác Semmelweis, one of the most influential figures in not only Hungary, but in the medical history of the world. 

What can we learn from the patron, the ruler, the scientist and the cultural minister?

What is the task of today’s university?

Péter Pázmány, who contributed toward the foundation of the university out of his own wealth, formulated the following admonition:

Qui honorat patrem suum jucundabitur in filiis – Only he who honoured his master can take joy in his students.

The universality of master and student is, perhaps, one of the most defining characteristics of our university existence, since we pass onto our students what we had learned from our masters and, soon, our students will, in turn, become masters to new students themselves. 

What does Mária Terézia, founder of the Medical Faculty, write in her educational provision, the Ratio Educationis?

The university is a professional school, which endows students with the aptitude to cultivate science and disseminate noble aspirations throughout our homeland. 

A university does not only teach, it educates as well. 

It does not only transmit knowledge, but excels in the acquisition of new knowledge as well. 

In the words of József Eötvös, Minister of Culture during Hungary’s War of Independence in 1848:

The university should be a scientific school, a lighthouse where scientists teach!

Based on a slightly complicated, but all the more apt phrase of Minister Eötvös,

Just as the sun shines first upon the highest peaks, and only later spreads across the Plain, finally penetrating into the narrowest valleys, so does civilisation follow this exact same road, and in all of history we cannot show a single example where scientific progress did not bring with it progress to social and political life as well.

His son, Loránd Eötvös, who also served as Minister of Culture, said:

The university of today – following the principle that science can only be transmitted by one who is, himself, capable of moving science forward – gathers into its sphere almost every one of those working in the scientific field. The university provides them with all the necessary tools, making it their only duty to teach as their conviction dictates; it provides everything needed for them to be able to freely assert their personalities in the field of scientific research, and to nurture successors for themselves out of their students. Can it come as a surprise, then, that the free atmosphere of the university is where scientific life is at its most vibrant?

Finally, a sentence from the creed of our University’s namesake, Ignác Semmelweis:

We, however, would like to keep our postnatal women healthy.

Semmelweis was very much ahead of his time in his recognition of the significance of asepsis. The message which the “Saviour of Mothers” sends us is that a person whose hands a patient’s life has been entrusted must do everything in his power to save that life.

Semmelweis was able to place this goal above even his own professional and scientific career, defending his truth even when the “great race ’til the grave” put his very livelihood in jeopardy. 

It is my sincere wish that each of us be able to “fight, according to his strength, for the noblest causes” in this same spirit. 

Three centuries, four great personalities, three imperatives:

  1. Let there be mutual respect and cooperation between professors and students!
  2. In addition to teaching and learning, let outstanding research activities abound at our university as well!
  3. Let all our activities be permeated by the greatest possible feeling of responsibility and sacrifice towards the lives that have been entrusted to us. 

Perhaps as a result of all of the above, Semmelweis University was awarded the Research Centre of Excellence distinction in 2010. Then, in 2012, Hungary’s oldest medical school was selected among those brands, which represent the highest quality, becoming a so-called Superbrand. In the same year, in honour of their shared history, three prestigious universities – Eötvös Loránd University, Pázmány Péter Catholic University and Semmelweis University – entered into a long-term close partnership in education and research under the name Higher Education and Research Association of Nagyszombat

For You, first-year students, the beginning of the new academic year is a tremendous experience, since you will find out in the coming weeks whether you have made the right choice. In other words, you will see whether you have set your target upon the faculty and major which will allow you to practice a profession which suits you, and whether you will be capable of fulfilling the obligations described above.

Allow me to share with you a well-known parable:

A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it. Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture. Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and chocked out the tender plants. Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!

Clearly, there will be some among you, who will not be able to keep pace with the course work, and will fall behind. There will be others, who will realise that they should have applied to a different program, and will transfer. There will be still others who, in hopes of easier advancement and a higher income, will leave their vocation. Nonetheless, we firmly believe that the majority of you will learn the content of the curriculum with joy and enthusiasm and, in a few years’ time, will be practicing your vocation with you well-earned diploma in hand. 

Many of you will become masters yourselves, with more and more new students, thus increasing the University’s crop manyfold. 

The grape berry is a small fruit; still, it takes a whole summer to ripen – Szilveszter the apostle muses in Sándor Petőfi’s poem.

How much more time, effort and money is required for a student to ripen, or, in other words, for the seed planted in fertile soil to grow and become a professional, a master!

This is precisely why we need to invest not less, but increasingly more in higher education, research and innovation, as the nation’s development and advancement is essentially determined by its intellectual potential. Recovery from the current economic crisis is inconceivable without a multitude of cultivated individuals. Returns on the investment will, however, take much longer to come than in the case of, say, a bank or car manufacturer. 

In the words of Nobel Laureate György Oláh: 

The future must be invested in, and the best investment a nation can make is the education of its youth.

The situation of our resident doctors doubly underlines the value of a higher education qualification in the medical sciences. First, through the fact that their departure from Hungary leaves behind a gap which cannot be filled, and second, when they superbly hold their own abroad, and permanently abandon the idea of coming home.

My wish is for all of You to hold your own in Hungary!

Let me conclude my speech with an admonition by Péter Pázmány, which speaks to master and student alike:

Fear God, study diligently, and faithfully serve your nation, your homeland.

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§ 4 Responses to Speeches from the Opening Ceremony

  • afiore says:

    Brain drain is a serious problem usually to the benefit of the US, and now to the EU as well. I agree there must be a pay-back by the subsidized students to their community. How long could be debatable

    • Buda B says:

      I agree that it is fair that the students pay back their country with their time (if their educations were funded by taxes of course). I do think that 10-12 years seems like quite a long time…though that may be the amount of time required for them to “break even”.

  • Fiorentino says:

    I have heard of the 5 years requirement – which is reasonable. Problem is that many countries need their doctors for the health fo the people – not just to break even. Somehow medical doctors must be convinced to stay whether under legal or moral obligation.

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