December 17, 2005
Honourable Minister for Tertiary Education, Distinguished Guests and Parents, welcome to Ashesi University. Welcome to this, the first graduation ceremony at our institution.
Pioneer Class of 2005, congratulations on reaching this very important milestone in your life’s journey. Thank you so very much for believing in Ashesi’s mission, for joining our cause, and for making it your own.
There is a vision that Ashesi represents – a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Africa. A vision of a people imbued with the freedom to seek what is true, and to live more excellent lives. We strive towards an idea of what our world should be, knowing very well that we start from a position of disadvantage. Yet, the very size of the task confronting us is what will make this expedition -our lives- so poignant, and so meaningful.
Our challenge is enormous. We live on a continent that has only recently begun to make headway in its march towards the good society. Independence from colonial rule did not immediately bring liberty to the peoples of Africa. Instead, during the last half of the 20th century, while other nations around the world made major advances, Sub-Saharan Africa fell to the rule of tyranny. In our part of the world, governments attacked and plundered their own citizens, leaving unimaginable suffering in their wake.
Africa’s problems, if you think about it, have largely been a result of the acts of our leaders. Those who should have been our guardians, have instead overseen the continent’s decline by acts of commission such as corruption, war, human rights abuses and poorly conceived economic policies; and also by acts of omission, including the failure to build effective public health and democratic governance systems. Our leaders failed to recognize and react quickly to threats such as the HIV/AIDS pandemic which now represents the biggest emergency in Africa.
Clearly, our world ought to be different; and so it is, that we have embarked on a journey to help change this world by training a new generation of enlightened leaders in Africa – men and women, who will work, above all, for the good of society.
The Ashesi team is motivated by the vision of an educational system in Africa that requires all future leaders to reflect on the quintessential questions about what a good society is, and how it should be organized. What a difference will we make when other institutions follow our example! We can imagine what would happen if all of Africa’s teachers, doctors, engineers, politicians, police and military officers understood the awesome responsibility that lies on their shoulders as guardians of their society.
You, Pioneer Class of 2005, stand at the tip of our drive to realize this vision. You will always be special to us here at Ashesi. You bet on an idea –the Liberal Arts and Sciences- at a time when very few people in Ghana could even understand it. And through you, we are making an impact on Ghanaian higher education and on Corporate Ghana. I personally feel very privileged to be a part of your lives.
I still remember the first day you walked through Ashesi’s gates. Your presence marked a major milestone for a project that had been several years in the making. It was a real thrill to see you on that first day; and it is equally delightful to stand in your presence today to honor the work you have done over the past four years.
Together with faculty and administrators, you have helped create an academic setting that compels all of us to engage in a life of critical, coherent and ethical thinking. You have learned the processes of exploration, deep questioning, and conversation. Most importantly, you have learned to move beyond intellectual pursuit to action that improves our world.
Do not forget these lessons. In the words of Proust, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes but in having new eyes.” I believe you have acquired new eyes at Ashesi – a system that enables you to see deeply and devise multi-dimensional solutions to the problems you encounter.
I feel very confident that you will be a source of good in our nation and our world. I know that our country’s best hope lies in you.
Once again, we stand at a major milestone – the coming of age of Ashesi University. Through you and your future careers, we begin a sustained contribution to the world. The promise of your impact in society makes me very glad.
I will miss you. These four years have passed far too quickly. But this need not be goodbye; you will always receive a warm welcome here, and I personally look forward to many more conversations with each of you. I wish you all the best of successes, and I look forward to your contributions in the years to come.