Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, 2 July 2016

  • Excellency, Dr Mulatu Teshome, President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
  • Excellency, Ato Gadu Andargachew, President of the Amhara Region State
  • Dr Baylie Damite, President of Bahir Dar University
  • Senior Officials, Distinguished Faculty
  • Graduates
  • Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning.

First of all, congratulations, to all of you graduating today, along with your families and teachers.

I thank the Bahir Dar University Senate for this honorary degree, a great honour not only to me, but more importantly which pays tribute to the struggle of the Rwandan people, for liberation and prosperity.

By the way, let me add, that you really got it right, by emphasising how big a role Rwandan women have played, in our country’s rebirth. Thank you very much for that.

Our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia have been with us, all the way, which we will always appreciate and reciprocate, as best as we can.

I am honoured to stand together with you today, and to be associated with this very fine university, and the great nation of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia it serves.

I want to speak directly to you, the new graduates.

Like your parents, I came of age in a different Africa.

Complicated circumstances, injustice and bad politics prevented many of us from attending university, regardless of merit. Even the right to live, was not always assured.

We had no choice but to struggle and fight, to secure the dignity and opportunity, that we now enjoy and deserve.

It is up to you to build on this foundation, and do even more and better, for our future.

We must never take for granted how far we have come, and how much sacrifice was required, to get to this point.

But neither can we be satisfied with mediocrity, or flattered by praise for small ambitions.

We live today in a better Africa, than ever before. Now let’s build the best Africa.

It is not enough to have a degree, or to be young. Much more important are the mindsets of ownership, responsibility, and passionate curiosity.

The biggest part of any problem, is accepting itas normal.

First, use your voice, to stand up for what is right.

Bring your knowledge and logic. Be firm, and if necessary be defiant. You have as much stake in this world of ours, as anyone. Take your seat, Africa’s seat, at the high table.

Second, whatever needs to be done, know that you are the people to do it, and that you are perfectly capable.

You don’t need to be shown who you are, or how you should live. You already know that very much.

Third, in every situation, strive to bring people together, never to divide them.

We benefit from our diverse ideas and identities, yet within that, there is always a way to build common purpose, whether as a family, a company, a nation, even our continent and world as a whole.

It is my most sincere pleasure once again to be here with you, to be associated with you and thank you for this great honour, bestowed upon me, and more importantly my people, and that speaks a lot to how much we can together as brothers and sisters. As we work together, ever more closely with the people of this great nation.

These are among the African and universal values that you inherit and you should be proud of who you are, and the great nation of Ethiopia.

Congratulations again, and thank you.