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June 6th, 2015
SSE Riga Graduation Ceremony 2015
Dear Graduating Classes of 2015, Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to the 2015 SSE Riga Graduation!
As tradition has it, I start by turning my back to you, look at the audience and say thank you to your parents, spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, your families, your loved ones and say thank you for sharing what are now the graduating classes of 2015 with us. We have enjoyed having them with us, but now we would like to return them to you with an SSE Riga Diploma in their hands.
I also see my colleagues in the SSE Riga staff and faculty; I would also like to thank you for making this day possible.
Now graduates, I turn to you: SSE Riga Graduation Day is the day when I take the longest walk of the year. The walk from the SSE Riga building to this building might not be the longest in terms of distance. While it just takes five minutes it is the longest in ‘mental’ terms. Walking through the park, trying to finalize the speech that I am supposed to deliver in a few minutes. When coming out of the park the speech is usually more or less finalized. Just about to enter the square I raise my eyes and I see this building which is now hosting us:
This was a building where questioning and challenging the existing views were not encouraged.
This was a building where addressing shortcomings and seeking solutions were not encouraged.
This was the building for political education in the Latvian Soviet Republic.
With this in mind, I cross the square and when approaching this building – now the Riga Congress House – I feel the irony of fate. Just 12 years after this building was finished it became an integral part of another type of education – the SSE Riga education. The first SSE Riga admissions tests took place here. Some of the first lectures were given here – the SSE Riga Building was not ready back in the summer of 1994. All but four SSE Riga graduations have taken place in this building originally built for the Communist Party’s political education.
Continuing the walk the irony of fate strikes me again. This time when entering the building passing the plaque reminding us about the people of the Popular Front, many of them your age, who in 1989 met here doing exactly what was not encouraged in this building. They questioned the current views, they addressed the shortcomings of the system. Within less than a year, their work resulted in today’s independent Latvia.
My walk now ends here in front of you, the graduating class of 2015. Your walk of life as SSE Riga graduates will start in just a few minutes. Wherever your walk will take you I am pretty sure that you will all remember where it started – in this very building. And you will always remember the message that comes with this building:
Challenge and question the existing views.
Address shortcomings and seek solutions.
By doing so you will change things for the better. Failure to do so will only make things worse.
Now my walk has come to an end and what remains is to wish you good luck on your walk of life as SSE Riga graduates!
Rector, SSE Riga