Alderman Johan Kruithof, city councillor of Apeldoorn, inspired graduates on Friday as the guest speaker at Wittenborg's 2018 Winter Graduation Ceremony. In his speech, he reminded graduates that they have a voice which they can use as social activists to bring about change and tackle the challenges faced by modern society. Here is an excerpt from his speech:
"We, as the government of Apeldoorn, are excited about having a growing number of international students and staff from Wittenborg in our midst, enriching life in Apeldoorn with their different cultures. We are proud that Wittenborg has been ranked as the 4th best small university of applied sciences in the Netherlands. Wittenborg is also admitting more master's degree students and producing more MSc graduates.
"So, what advice shall I give to a group of young men and women on the verge of entering the labour market? What assurances about the future?
"If we look back at the past year, the future might not seem too bright: threats of nuclear war, people fleeing from economic hardships. We continued to make great strides on our way to the 4th industrial revolution, while at the same time we are asking more and more questions about the consequences of all this new technology on the fabric of society.
"But guess what? It's not all doom and gloom. If 2017 taught us anything, it is the power of social activism.
"Who was Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2017? It, in fact, was not one person but a group of women – the ones who started the #metoo campaign. What did #metoo do? A simple hashtag created by an individual empowered women from all over the world to speak up. And that is only one example. There are countless other examples of how you, as an individual and a networked thinker, can be an agent of change.
"So as you leave here today, think about how you can make a difference in tackling some of the challenges we face. Whether in your community or in your family. Whether as a helper volunteering your time and attention, as an advocate who uses his or her voice to speak about injustice, or as an organiser who mobilises people into action.
"I mean, you have already proven to yourself that fear does not define you. We all have fears, but that does not dictate your course in life. Otherwise you would not be here, in Apeldoorn, today. You left your countries, your families and friends to study in the Netherlands. Or maybe you are a Dutch graduate who had the courage to be different. To be curious enough to study at an international university of applied sciences, and to open yourself to other cultures. It is a gift to be brave enough to step out of your comfort zone, especially in these times when many people seem to take refuge in nationalism. In the idea of "them" and "us".
"You are receiving your degree diploma today – whether it is a bachelor's degree or a master's degree, but that does not mean you are done learning. I believe in the concept of life-long learning. Whether it is formal – in an academic sense – or whether you take all the opportunities available to learn from others: mentors, colleagues, parents, anybody.
"What about your time in Apeldoorn? I hope you found the city stimulating and welcoming. A good relationship between a town and its educational institutes is often taken for granted, but that is what we have established with Wittenborg University over the past 8 years. For those who are going back to your own countries, we hope you had a pleasant experience in our city and will go from here as ambassadors for Wittenborg and Apeldoorn."
by James Wittenborg
©Wittenborg University Press