Graduation Address: Professor Will Fowler

Thursday 23 June 2016

2016-06-23T16:00 fowler-mainbody

Professor Will Fowler, School of Modern Languages, addresses the gr

aduates at our sixth Graduation 2016 ceremony.‌

Chancellor, ladies and gentlemen

ألف مبروك     Félicitations!     Gut Gemacht!

Congratulazion     i!آفرین و خسته نباشید!     Молодцы!     ¡Enhorabuena!

Well done!

You have made it! What a magnificent feeling it must be for you, your friends and family. It is certainly a wonderful feeling for us.

Four – in some cases – five years of study are now definitely over. You are finally free! Visca! Celebrate! Rejoice! No more will you find yourselves sitting in 9am lectures (if you ever did make them) maybe nursing abominable hangovers. No longer will you need to memorise irregular verbs or suffer obscure films you never imagined ever wanting to watch in your own time, or battle to refute Descartes’ evil demon, or even study that impossible article by Bordieu (and in the case of our honorary graduate Professor Louise Richardson: try to herd the cats in the School of Modern Languages). No more essays. No more seminar presentations. No more sitting in this very hall, nervously waiting for the invigilator to allow you to turn over the exam paper and start writing. All of that is now over.

It is an extraordinary achievement. Seriously. You have survived one of the most challenging academic programmes in the world, be that at an undergraduate or postgraduate level. This is the University of St Andrews, after all. And you may have had to overcome a veritable plethora of trials, obstacles, and tribulations to get here; heroically battled your way through what were extremely demanding exams, finished dissertations that seemed at times to be never-ending, navigated distractions (such as falling in love), analysed complex books, films, concepts, societies, and in some cases mastered a foreign language (or three!).

To those people out there that tell you it is now time to get real and face the world, believe me, you are ready! You leave us endowed with an enviable knowledge of your subjects and disciplines as well as a whole set of breath-taking interpretative and analytical strategies you will be able to apply in the most unexpected of circumstances. You are hard-working, hard-playing, hard-thinking global communicators and intercultural transnational mediators. There is nothing that can stop you now.

And you graduate on the very same day the United Kingdom is holding its European Referendum. Now that merits a moment of reflection. You graduate on the very same day in which Britain chooses between either severing its ties with Europe and allowing itself to cast adrift into the mid-Atlantic only to sink without trace into the depths of the ocean in a monolingual storm of nostalgic imperial delusion, or to stay put and in so doing surrender its destiny to the unelected banana-straightening border/floodgate-opening bureaucrats that mill around in luxury British-taxpayers’ funded offices in Brussels.  It is a particularly striking reminder that out there, as you leave St Andrews, there is an entire world calling out to be sorted, needing the kind of direction you can give it. And I will say that again: an entire world needing the kind of direction you can – and must – give it.

For, do not get me wrong, each one of you (and that includes you too, Professor Richardson and Sir Geoffrey) are like… Spiderman. Yes, you heard right. You are like Spiderman (or Spiderwoman if you prefer). Because ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. Each one of you has demonstrated just by being here, in this hall, today, that you are among the brightest people of your generation. You have the power of intelligence and knowledge. Use it! Use it responsibly. But use it!

So celebrate, rejoice, party the night away. You deserve to do so. But as of tomorrow, whether this country has chosen to weigh anchor or stand by its European cousins, make sure your education counts, stand up for what is right, and use your St Andrean power wisely and responsibly.

Thank you.

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