A record 669 graduates from 77 countries received their diplomas at the University's 22nd annual commencement ceremony on June 13. President and Rector John Shattuck welcomed the graduates, their friends and families, and Open Society Prize winner Sir Fazle Hasan Abed to Budapest's Palace of Arts on the banks of the then-flooded Danube River. Provost and Academic Pro-Rector Katalin Farkas served as master of ceremonies.
“CEU is a great experiment,” said Shattuck. “It was founded in the only part of the world to have been dominated by both fascism and communism. And it was founded by dissident leaders like George Soros who had a different vision from the one that destroyed the countries where they were born. The experiment was to rekindle intellectual freedom, and to build an open society on the ruins of totalitarianism. It was a daring experiment and it's still going on today.”
Chairman of the CEU Board of Trustees and President of Bard College Leon Botstein reminded graduates that their alma mater is not “an ordinary institution,” but one that is dedicated not only to scholarship but to action in the world. “It is a place that is against tyranny, a closed mind, absence of curiosity, xenophobia, chauvinism, and notions of extreme nationalism. It is against the use of force over the use of speech.”
Alumni speaker Darko Angelov (IRES '04) the youngest ambassador to Hungary (from his native Macedonia), and Student speaker Albana Rexha, who received her MA in public policy, spoke about the CEU experience.
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, the founder of BRAC, a development organization dedicated to alleviate poverty by empowering the poor, and BRAC University, was both the recipient of the Open Society Prize and the commencement speaker. A native of Bangladesh, Abed was deeply affected by the cyclone that tore his country apart in 1971. In 1972, he founded BRAC, what is now the world's largest non-governmental development organization, having reached over 125 million people. BRAC seeks to increase the poor's access to resources and to support their entrepreneurship.
“We found that poverty was so entrenched that only a long-term effort of social and economic transformation would uproot it. And this task became my life’s work,” Abed said. “I have learned much along the way. Perhaps the most important thing I learned was that when you create the right conditions, poor people will do the hard work of defeating poverty themselves.” Abed also underscored the importance seeking wisdom along our respective paths and doing what we are deeply compelled to do. He wished the same for the class of 2013, saying “May you all find a meaningful path, illuminated by high ideals and guided by constant learning.”
As the ceremony concluded, Shattuck congratulated graduates and urged them to apply what they've learned to their post-university life. “I believe your most important contribution to CEU will be your commitment to build an open society,” he said. “No matter who you are, or where you live, or what you do, you can play a role in resisting tyranny. You will have the opportunity to make a difference in the struggle for freedom.”