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European School Εκτύπωση
04.07.14
Keynote speech by Margaritis SCHINAS to the Baccalauréat award ceremony, European School of Ixelles, 4.7.14.

Monsieur le Ministre,
Chers élèves,
Chers Professeurs,
Chers Parents
Chers amis,
C'est un grand honneur de prendre la parole aujourd'hui ici devant vous en tant que représentant de la Commission, mais aussi en tant que parent. Lors de l'exercice de mes fonctions, j'ai eu l'occasion de m'adresser à plusieurs assemblées publiques, mais - croyez-moi – je considère l'allocution d'aujourd'hui comme la plus importante et de loin la plus émouvante. Depuis l'antiquité, conseiller les jeunes et débattre sur leur avenir était considéré comme un grand privilège, une mission réservée aux philosophes. Je remercie la Direction de l'école de m'avoir considéré digne de cette tâche.
 

Dear students,
You are the Class of 2014. So far this has not been a memorable year; it may become one if we have an European winner in Brazil next week!
Still, if one places 2014 in the wider context of European history, the year of your graduation is full of symbolism that should perhaps make you pause and think for a moment.
You are coming out of school exactly 100 years since the gun was fired in Sarajevo and the onset of the slaughter that was the First World War. You are graduating 70 years after D day in Normandy that marked the beginning of the end of the Second World War. Only 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall that reunited Europe and without which many of you would not have been here today. And, to bring us up-to-date, just 5 years since the start of the worst economic crisis in generations that shook the fundamentals of our economies and our societies.
I do not mention these anniversaries around 2014 to give you a history lesson. Rather, it is perhaps important to remind you of two things: First, that peace, democracy and prosperity in Europe are not given. Your grandparents fought each other in two horrible wars, many of your parents suffered from conflicts, dictatorships and oppression. Peace, democracy and prosperity are consequences of cooperation, not the outcomes of isolation. Second, that Europe has been the solution to all these troubles, not their root cause. You, as graduates of this School are symbols of the success of European integration. Do not allow anyone to claim the contrary. You are the embodiment of what is best about Europe. You personify the values of tolerance, coexistence, unity in diversity and inter cultural cooperation. You can defend Europe better than anybody else, because you are Europe yourselves.
 
I have two more things to tell you on this important day.
One: Few youngsters have the privilege of completing their education with such an impressive portfolio of languages, cosmopolitan values and open views, largely due to the uniqueness of this School. But, don't let these advantages lead you to believe that everything ahead of you will be easy. It will not. You will have to demonstrate effort and hard work to reach the top. As Hesiod wrote, "the immortal gods always put sweat before honour and success". Success comes only through hard work; there are no shortcuts.
Two: Be good to others. There are no bigger qualities in life than being kind, noble and well-intentioned. Success cannot last, unless it is grounded in virtue. Matthew the Evangelist asked: "what is the benefit to man, if he wins the world in exchange for his soul?".
Dear students, chers bacheliers,
I recall vividly exactly in this moment of my own high-school graduation decades ago. I wish you all to experience in the future with your own children the same feelings of pride and fulfilment that I'm feeling today in seeing you graduating today from this magnificent School. I have a real sense of hope and conviction that you will make the best of the opportunities that your European life has so generously offered you.
Isocrates - a famous orator and philosopher - was asked to counsel his best friend's son Demonicus on his future. His advice to young Demonicus - given 2500 years ago - remains valid today : "Στέργε μεν τα παρόντα, ζήτει δε τα βελτίω". "Appreciate what is given to you, but strive to make it better". I can't think of anything more appropriate to conclude this speech. This is also my final message to you: Build on what has so generously been given to you, but go out and strive for even greater things in life.
 
The road to the top will not always be easy, it will be hilly and full of turns. But have no doubt: the view from up there on the top cannot compare to anything else.
Congratulations and enjoy the ride! Félicitations et bonne route! En hora buena y buen camino! Συγχαρητήρια και καλό δρόμο!
 
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