Founder's Address to Students, CEU’s 30th Graduation Ceremony, 2021

June 18, 2021

Good afternoon. I would like to congratulate you on the occasion of your graduation from Central European University. You have had a very eventful and interesting experience during your years at CEU. In addition to graduating from your subject of choice, you got to know two countries: Hungary, whose leader prides himself on inventing the concept of illiberal democracy, but whom most other people regard as the founder of the mafia state; and Austria, which is a functioning democracy in the European Union. 

I would also like to congratulate to the university itself. It lived through a very difficult period and managed to come through thriving. It strengthened its global reputation and maintained its ranking as one of the top universities in the world in several social sciences. My thanks go to those who managed the university during this time. I am proud of you and I am proud of CEU. That you are here today having completed your graduate studies is testimony of your determination and convictions. It is a moment to savior and celebrate, but it is not a time to grow complacent and to think that your mission is accomplished. 

When I establish CEU 30 years ago, I believed that the European Union was the embodiment of an open society and a model for the world. But the world has changed. History has taken a turn in the wrong direction. The forces of authoritarianism are on the rise. We must work together to reverse the trend. 

There have been other periods when repressive regimes were triumphant, although I must admit that artificial intelligence has created problems for free and open societies that they never had to face before. 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. To complicate matters, some of these instruments of control are also needed to tackle the pandemic, and let us not forget climate change that is threatening the survival of our civilization. 

The role of China, inequality and climate change are global problems that the graduates of CEU will have to contend with wherever they land. New problems need new solutions, so we have our work cut out for us. But that shall not stop us for pausing for a moment and celebrating your achievements, and the achievement of the university. Today is a day for you and your families to enjoy yourself, so have a good time.