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Remarks by Ismail Serageldin at UTS graduation ceremony
Sydney, Australia, 04 May 2004  --

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Ismail Serageldin
UTS Graduation Ceremony
Sydney, Australia
4 May 2004

Chancellor Sir Gerrard Brennan,
Vice-Chancellor Prof. Ross Milbourne
Members of the UTS community
Distinguished guests,

Thank you for the great honor you do me and for the special privilege of standing before you at this special moment of renewal  and transition. Perennial as the grass, graduations celebrate achievement and promote transition. To the graduates, our speeches today must both help and challenge you as you embark on your new journey of life.  

I have had the occasion to address a number of these gatherings in past years, and some overarching themes recur in what I have to say.  But today is different.  Today is special for me and for all of you..  For you are graduating into a world undergoing a transformation so profound that its contours can only be dimly perceived, and its driving forces can be barely understood, and its momentous consequences can be hardly imagined .  Indeed, it provokes fear as much as it seduces the imagination..  

Driven by ever more powerful computers and ever faster communications, the digital language of bits and bytes allows us to merge the realms of words, music, image and data as never before. The internet revolutionizes the very meaning of time and space.   New industries appear, and the old disappear. With the click of a mouse and the flight of an electron, billions of dollars move across the globe.  The fast eat the slow. 

And that is not all.  From informatics to the life sciences, the revolution continues. Today we are decoding the DNA blueprints of life, we are mobilizing bacteria to do our work, and we are manipulating the very building blocks of life.  Our new capacities pose new and profound ethical and safety issues, further complicated by the new issues of proprietary science.    

Will these be the forces of homogenization or of  diversity?  Will they be used to crush the weak or to afford them new opportunities?    

Much has been done much to make the world a better place for all.  The twentieth century, was one of struggle for emancipation. The colonies were liberated, women got the franchise, racial, ethnic and religious minorities and non-conformists were all acknowledged to have political and civil rights that derive from their common humanity. Around the planet, more people than ever enjoy these freedoms. This has not come easily, and the blood of millions was the price that was paid to reach where we have reached today.

On the socio-economic front, in the last forty years the developing countries have doubled school enrollments, halved infant mortality and adult illiteracy, and extended life expectancy at birth by an amazing twenty years.   But despite that, much, so much, remains to be done.  A global developmental agenda demands our efforts and our solidarity.   This new world that has never been more promising or more perilous .

Consider the paradox of our times.  We live in a world of plenty, of dazzling scientific advances and technological breakthroughs. Yet, our times are marred by conflict, violence, economic uncertainty and tragic poverty.  A sense of insecurity pervades even the most affluent societies. Nations are looking inward, and the rich turn their backs on the poor.     

In this world so rapidly reinventing itself, where does  ethical responsibility come in?  The ruthless allocative efficiency of the market should be tempered by a caring and nurturing society.  We cannot allow the gap between the rich and the poor continue to grow.  We must recognize that we are all part of the same human family.  

Abraham Lincoln once warned the American people that a house divided cannot stand, that a nation cannot live half slave and half free.    

Today, I warn you and all people on earth, that a world divided cannot survive, that the human family cannot live partly rich and mostly poor.  

We must change the world.   Do not listen to the cynics and the nay-sayers!   The world can be changed, but only if we fight against the prevailing apathy and lack of caring.  

To this fight, this new generation, whose vanguard you represent, must bring its abilities and a sense of moral outrage.  Yes, moral outrage.  

It is inconceivable that there should be some 800 million persons going hungry in a world that can provide for that most basic of all human needs. In the 19th century, some people looked at the condition of slavery and said that it was monstrous and unconscionable. That it must be abolished. They were known as the abolitionists. They did not argue from economic self interest, but from moral outrage.   

Today the condition of hunger in a world of plenty is equally monstrous and unconscionable and must be abolished. We must become the "new abolitionists".   

We must, with the same zeal and moral outrage, attack the complacency that would turn a blind eye to this silent holocaust which claims some 40,000 hunger-related deaths every day.  

This theme is one that I take mostly to young graduating classes like yourselves, because   

in the nobility of your spirit,
in the exuberance of your youth,
in the quality of the education you have received,
in the unsullied idealism that you possess,
in the dedication to our common humanity that you bring .

 . I find the hope of mastering the great global technological revolution and of building better tomorrows.

 My friends,

The secret of success will be more in the bedrock of your values, inherited and learned, than in the specific knowledge you have gained today.  You have learned to learn, but more importantly, you have grown to care.

So, harness your skill, your imagination and your determination to create a better world for all, not just for yourselves.The challenge is great, but it must be met.  You can meet it, driven by a vision .  A vision of a caring society

A vision of a caring society where (in keeping with Gandhi) there would be

NO Politics without principle
NO Wealth without work
NO Commerce without morality
NO Pleasure without conscience
NO Education without character
NO Science without humanity

A vision where a people's greatness is measured by the quality of the lives of their poorest citizens not by the size of their armies or the scale of their buildings..

A vision where the future is for all, as open-ended as knowledge, as random as play, as surprising as human imagination and ingenuity .

Yes! We must change the world. We must ensure that the new millennium is indeed the millennium for all the wretched of the earth.

It can be done, it must be done,  and by your work . it will be done.

My friends,

You are the vanguard of the new generation of this great global transformation.  So, go forth into the journey of your lives, and create a better world for yourselves and for others.  Think of the unborn, remember the forgotten, give hope to the forlorn, include the excluded, reach out to the unreached, and by your actions from this day onwards lay the foundation for better tomorrows.

Thank you.

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