Honourable Rector and Deans, Mayor, Honourable President of the Academy, Your Excellency, Your Eminence, Professors, Ladies and Gentlemen, Students,
It is an uplifting experience to celebrate with you the 650th anniversary of the day the first Hungarian university was founded. Starting this year, the birthday of the University of Pécs is also the Day of Hungarian Higher Education. It is fitting that present with us here today are the representatives of all the organisations – or their successors – which contributed to the birth of this celebrated institution, or its rebirth in 1923. The story of the University of Pécs is a genuinely Hungarian one. For our destiny was laid down so that, after the first foundation, our tumultuous history would lead to general and periodic refoundation. Present here today are representatives of Hungarian academia, the Hungarian government and the City of Pécs – as well as representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, without which this city would be inconceivable, and without which this university could not have come into being. It befits the occasion to evoke the memory of the following: founder of the University Bishop William; György Klimó, who in 1774 made the Episcopal Library accessible to all; and Gyula Zichy, who donated church properties in 1923, when our university in Pozsony/ Bratislava was evacuated here. And here we also remember Janus Pannonius, after whom the University was once named.
The City of Pécs is at the forefront of Hungarian academia, and what was written about it six and a half centuries ago still holds true today: a most suitable place for sowing the seeds of learning. With its diversity, it testifies to the fact that our culture, our scientific thinking and our special worldview form a unique combination. The University of Pécs is both an heir and a custodian of this tradition, and for this it deserves the utmost respect.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This year there will be more than a quarter of a million university students studying across our country. Among them are the professors, deans, rectors and ministers of the future, and we may well even have a future prime minister here. The question arises: what can the future of today’s young Hungarians be like, and what should it be like? An easy, cheap answer would be that it should be the future that they are able to build for themselves. And indeed, beyond the biblical commandment to honour their parents, we Hungarians traditionally raise our children so that, if needs be, they should be able to resist: to say “no”. They should want more, something different and something better than what we are, and what we were capable of. But it is also true that the young people of the future will have to set out from the point at which we parents left off in our active lives. And in life it is often the case that one’s point of departure also determines how far one can go. In other words, the answer to the question of the future of young Hungarians not only depends on your dreams, but also on the work we actually complete. What will the future of today’s young people be like – what can it be like? This is the most burning question of our era, pondered upon not only by we Hungarians, but also by the whole of Europe.
Those who look around Europe today will see that there is a debate – and often a struggle –between competing visions. We who are past our prime – or at least past the more adventurous part of our lives – know only too well that there are only two kinds of future. One of them is the future we choose for ourselves. The other is the future which comes upon us if we only sit, wait and talk, while others decide for us over our heads. We therefore have two options: either we will be ready to work and fight for the future that should come, or we have to accept whatever it is that comes.
This primarily depends on you, Dear Students: because the future that you choose for yourselves will also be the future of Hungary and Europe. There was a time when it was enough to join the mainstream of European life, when it was enough to launch our boat and let ourselves be guided by the European currents. Our generation, seeking to break free of communism and Soviet occupation, could still believe in this. We could stake our lives on this, and we did well to do so, because this is what made us successful: an uncompromising aspiration to freedom, an uncompromising aspiration to national independence, and an uncompromising aspiration to Europe’s reunification. So, Dear Students, the world has now changed a great deal. You will have to find new paths and different approaches. If we allow ourselves to drift with the flow, in the direction that Europe is heading in at the moment, we will be lost. If we allow Europe’s spiritual, economic and political strength to diminish, if we allow the demographic decline to continue, if we allow the pressure of migration weighing down upon us to intensify, if we allow a dramatic change in the continent’s set of values, its cultural configuration and aspect, if we allow Europe to remain militarily weak and dependent on others, then Europe – at least in the way we now know it and love it – will disappear. And you, Dear Young People, will then be living in a different world – one as yet unknown. Europe has entered its eleventh hour. The first visible signs of surrender have emerged, and so have the intellectual and political schools of thought and leaders arguing that that there is no point in further resistance, and that what will be will be. The old Europe and its way of life can no longer be sustained, it is said: ancient, ageing and declining European peoples and nations must be replaced by a new continent with a mixed population, a mixed culture and a mixed set of values. This is the new prophecy.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am convinced, however, that today young people who have the courage to go against the flow once again represent our future – just like the young people of 1956, or the young generation at the time of the fall of communism. The future of Hungary is represented by those young people who are brave enough to choose family, the community and the nation over multiculturalism: those who are brave enough to decide in favour of Europe’s traditional, tried-and-tested values, rather than fashionable intellectual movements that seek to force everything into a homogeneous mass. The future of Hungary is represented by those young people who think freely, untrammelled by dogma; by those who refuse to let their intellectual and creative energy and imagination be shackled. The future of Europe is represented by young people from Central European countries who, time and again throughout the course of their history, have proved that they are courageous enough to swim against the current. The future of Europe is represented by young people of those countries which have become neither German nor Turkish, and which even the insatiable Soviet appetite – eager to devour everything – failed to digest.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The University of Pécs is a custodian of this Central European spirit, out of which it was born. It is akin to the universities of Prague, Krakow and Vienna. Europe’s centre of gravity is moving with the changing times. The question is whether we understand this, and whether, as the centre of gravity shifts, we manage to seize those moments which favour us. Central Europe, including Hungary, did just that in the 14th century, and gave a clear answer. A university must be founded, and to do so, Pécs needed three things – or, rather, three people: the Bishop of Pécs, the King of Hungary and the Pope. It needed the local and national leadership and Europe’s intellectual and spiritual leader of the time to all pull together. This approach is still valid today. A person steeped in today’s European debates is astonished to see how clear our ancestors’ thinking was, and how clearly they defined their objectives – such as the need for faith to be spread, for ordinary people to learn, and for just judgement to continue. And we also see the clarity of their sober injunctions. Allow me to quote them: the University should provide the nation with people who are known for their thoroughly considered decisions, who are in possession of noble virtues, and who are schooled in the various faculties’ studies. And, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is also clear that the founders expected the University to not only serve the advancement of Hungary, but also that of the neighbouring territories – including the whole of Central Europe. They wanted the students of the University to not only receive useful knowledge, but also a firm moral stance and an independent worldview.
I believe that the path being pursued by the University of Pécs conforms to this vision. It conforms to this vision with its twenty thousand students, with your excellent work, and with an educational staff of almost 1,500 – more than half with postgraduate qualifications, 160 with doctorates from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and sixteen with membership of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Also in line with this vision is the role of the University of Pécs as an academic and cultural centre for the South Transdanubia region; and with its budget of more than 56 billion forints, it is also a major player in the region. Honourable Rector, we would like the University of Pécs to not only be among the best in Central Europe, but in the whole of Europe. There is a long way to go to attain this goal. In the meantime, we have allocated 24 billion forints for this purpose, and I believe that each and every forint will be used well here.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Pope authorised foundation of the University on condition that the reigning king of Hungary should guarantee remuneration of its teachers and doctors. Well, there is no king any more, but there is and there will be provision for the University. In January this year staff in higher education received their second pay rise: last year’s pay rise was followed by another, and this will continue next year. As a result, between 2016 and 2018 we will have implemented pay rises totalling 27 per cent. And by 2020 we would like to train twenty thousand more researchers. Anyone with sufficient intelligence can see that it is not enough for us to only develop the higher level of the Hungarian educational system: we must also continuously strengthen its foundations. We are capable of this today. Families and schools are among the main winners over the past few years. Hungary has shed most of its internal difficulties arising from the transition from communism 27 years ago, and from the legacy of communism. It has reconstructed its disfigured state and social and economic structures, in its Fundamental Law it has defined its values and interests, it has made clear its nation-centred identity, and it is steadily gaining in strength. We have now turned Hungary into a medium-sized European state. In Hungary this year this has resulted in more children than ever receiving free textbooks and meals. This has resulted in school development programmes in almost fifty settlements in Hungary, and classrooms, swimming pools, gymnasia and entire schools are being built across the country. And this has resulted in our being able to launch a new school development programme, thanks to which developments worth tens of billions of forints will start in more than five hundred schools, which are mostly in disadvantaged settlements. And finally this has resulted in us planning to spend 552 billion forints more on education in 2018 than we did in 2010 – as is appropriate for a medium-sized European state.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Students,
Seven years ago I had the honour of receiving from Rector Bódis a copy of the deed of foundation of the University of Pécs, originally issued on 1 September 1367. I am most grateful for it. We could well regard this deed of foundation as the reading ruler of university education in Hungary and Europe today. I encourage the educational staff at the University of Pécs and Hungary’s other higher education institutions to foster a courageous, well-equipped and proactive generation of Hungarians for this country: a community which is committed to Europe’s and Central Europe’s traditional values, and which will be strong enough to choose and build a future that is worthy of its past.
Finally, allow me to quote the words of the Deed of Foundation: “May the University in the City of Pécs operate and thrive for eternity”. Happy birthday, people of Pécs – may God preserve you!
Go for it Hungary! Go for it Hungarians!