CEU Rector calls on Class of 2021 to ‘make a difference’

June 18, 2021

Vienna, June 18, 2021 – Michael Ignatieff calls on graduating students to make a difference as they step out into the wider world.    

At his final graduation ceremony before stepping down as CEU’s rector and president, Michael Ignatieff will call on the almost 500 students to “…. stand on the front line of our never-ending battle to defend the defenseless, house the homeless, befriend the friendless, in our never-ending battle to defend open societies from those who want to close them down.” In his speech, Ignatieff will also mention CEU student Ahmed Samir Santawy, currently imprisoned by the Egyptian authorities for “defending the values of an open society”, reiterating CEU’s commitment to stand with Ahmed “until he is released and free to resume his studies with us”.   

Addressing the graduating students, CEU founder and philanthropist George Soros will warn that “the forces of authoritarianism are on the rise” and call for all to work together to reverse the trend. He also adds that artificial intelligence (AI) has created problems for free and open societies that they had never had to face before. Pointing to China, Soros will say “AI can produce instruments of control that are helpful for a regime like Xi Jinping’s China, but they pose mortal danger to open societies.” Alongside AI and the role of China, Soros will also call out inequality and climate change as global problems, with the latter “threatening the survival of our civilization.” For the full text, see here

The winner of the 2021 CEU Open Society Prize, to be awarded at the ceremony, is Smt. K.K. Shailaja Teacher. The former Minister for Health for Kerala, India, K.K. Shailaja is honored for her “commitment to public health services, the bedrock of every open society”.    

This July marks Michael Ignatieff’s last term as rector and president of CEU. He will continue as university professor in the history department.     

Notes for Editors: 

About CEU  

One of the world’s most international universities, a unique founding mission positions Central European University (CEU) as both an acclaimed center for the study of contemporary economic, social and political challenges, sustainability and the environment, and a source of support for building open and democratic societies that respect human rights and human dignity. CEU is based in Vienna and Budapest. 

CEU Class of 2021 

The university awarded 27 doctoral degrees, 451 master’s degrees and 14 non-degree certificates on the Class of 2021. All now join CEU's global alumni body of 18,000 graduates in 148 countries. With CEU holding its second virtual convocation with graduate students joining from all over the world, this July marks the end of CEU’s first academic year of the university wholly being in Austria.  

The Open Society Prize  

The Prize is awarded annually to persons of exceptional distinction who serve the ideals of an open society. Previous recipients of the CEU Open Society Prize include President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel, economist and Nobel Prize laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz, former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, and 2015 Nobel Laurate for Literature Svetlana Alexievich.