|The President of the Republic to the Best University and College Graduates on June 19, 2001, at the Kadriorg Art Museum
Dear students, dear rectors and lecturers,
What does the world talk about these days? Mostly, it talks about globalisation. And what is most interesting - those who are on one side of the barricades in Gothenburg shout about it, and those who are on the other side, talk about it.
In other words, there are problems in the world that are seen from different angles. This probably speaks of something that we know very well in Estonia - it speaks of a moral crisis. It need not console us too much that there may be deeper crises in the world than we have had in Estonia - this is so just because the world changes more quickly than humans do.
I remember that Ferdinand von Wrangell said the same words when he was for the first time in the town of Irkutsk, sometime around 1815. Therefore, we may simply be dealing with a world that is more open, and where problems reach different people much more quickly. They often reach people in a shape that has not been properly put into words; and perhaps the unwordability of problems, or difficulties with putting problems into words, and the coexistence of two different languages are the core of the social conflicts of our ethics that you will now be addressing without even knowing it - as those to whose hands the future of Estonia has been placed.
From my own life I remember that when I finished secondary school, the world seemed somehow handier and simpler; but when I graduated from the university, I was especially aware of how little I knew of the world - so far beyond my reach, so distant and so strange it seemed to be. You all have a future waiting for you. I would be very interested to see what path you will take, and how wide the range of your hopes will be in five, ten, or fifteen years. How many of you will remain true to your acquired profession? How many of you will use this profession as a springboard to approach those areas that are the worst equipped in Estonia, and where Estonia most of all needs fresh, youthful thinking and solutions that have never before existed in Estonia, solutions that even the world is still looking for?
The world is indeed facing problems, and it is a little tired even of repeating these thoughts that have been addressed to you so many times: that education and higher education determine a country's position in the world. 200 years ago, Humboldt said that higher schools gave knowledge and eloquence, whereas life demanded character and action. I do not know how many starting points you have been given for building your character, how much thought you yourself have given to this topic - not when arguing with your lecturers, but in your everyday activity. Character is probably something that will guide you also in the future and - sad as it may seem - will take a pick of you, who have been chosen from the best, and sort out the more successful and the less successful ones. This cannot be helped. Life is beautiful just because it is so hard.
We could talk about Estonia again. We have never seen a lack of thoughts in Estonia. If we want something, it is putting those good thoughts into deeds. And also this is already there in your character - whether good thoughts will be carried to life or not.
I would also like to say some obsequious words to Marx, whose name you may or may not have heard; he claimed that economy was the basis of everything - also ethics, character, action. This is a journalist's approach. Life is always much more complex, so in your future life, better beware of prophets who point their bony index finger at a single solution that should contain all other solutions like the philosophers' stone. I think that especially the opinion that "Economy, especially in the globalising world, will detrmine everything." is something that we should cast away with the unleavened knowledge from secondary school, with the polished knowledge from the university.
Luckily, the world is much more complicated, and it is always difficult to point at the link that is visible. We only know that even though the economy is globalising, and despite the fact that many esteemed people have thought the world is becoming more and more homogenous and culturally more and more impoverished, this is still not the case. Family, friends, and the state nevertheless have, amazing as it may seem, an increasingly important role to play; maybe its importance is increasing because the raptures of free market economy have created an illusion that we are living in a boundless world. It is indeed boundless for our intellect that has been able to sound the origins of life, the beginning of human life on the one hand, and the farthest reaches of our universe on the other hand, and has yet been unable to answer, and will never be able to answer what role God had in all this. The world will never be boundless, but your flight ad astra must know no limits - and thus we come back to the topic of your character, your ethics.
Above all, I would like to wish you joy of life when you cross that invisible threshold; and when there will be hardships, you should never think that they have been pushed on your path by some vicious, evil or stupid people. Of course, there are such people in the world, but we have no other world to offer you. The austere and trying world you will enter today is also a beautiful world full of hope, and Estonia is the ground where you will be moving forward - energetically, confidently, doubtfully, and above all, I hope, honestly.
Congratulations to you all!
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