SOAS University of London

SOAS President Gra├ža Machel calls on 2019 graduates to stand up for human rights and end inequality

25 July 2019

SOAS University of London President and renowned humanitarian Dame Graça Machel gave an inspirational President’s speech at the 2019 SOAS graduation ceremonies in which she called on graduates to become the next generation of leaders who drive change, find solutions to the world’s problems and end inequality.

Mrs Machel emphasised the importance of the work the graduates would do: “It is incumbent upon you to be the change the world needs. You are the leaders of today and tomorrow. We need our leaders to lead, to stand up for a world with human dignity and rights at its heart. To recognise that the world’s major challenges require collective solutions – requires us to work together and make a difference.

Graca Machel 2019 graduation

SOAS President Graça Machel with Councillor Rakhia Ismail at this year's graduation

 “I urge you to be leaders. Be disruptors. Become teachers to those who would rather cling to the status quo and favour contention over peace.”

Mrs Machel urged graduates not to turn a blind eye to social injustice, saying: “The inequalities that plague our human family are impossible to ignore.  We find massive economic disparities across the globe in our focus regions of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and inside their national boundaries as well.  Social ills in the form of gender inequality and the unequal access to quality healthcare and educational opportunities also know no boundaries.

“Many of you here today have become well versed in numerous political and economic models, engaged in a wide spectrum of research, and gained innovative theoretical knowledge that can be practically applied to close economic chasms of inequity.”

Of SOAS she said: “It is rare to find a place that brings together the knowledge of these regions in such depth, and where a rich diversity of cultures and backgrounds, learning, discovery and critical thinking are nurtured and enhanced. This exposure will serve you well, as the world you now enter is rife with complexities.|”

She noted that graduates at SOAS could see how diversity is a strength and that their education has prepared them to confront the absence of good governance and lack of transparency that plague many of the countries, and political and economic systems that, as students, graduates spent years analysing and studying.

SOAS Director Baroness Valerie Amos CH gave the closing address saying: "SOAS graduates are part of the hope for the future. You will be the policy makers, humanitarian workers, artists, writers, journalists, politicians, thought leaders and entrepreneurs who we know going forward will do your part to ensure a better world. Your ability to engage critically, to ask questions no one else will, to build bridges and engage across communities and cultures is very special."

SOAS will be welcoming 6000 graduands during the 2019 ceremonies. During this week’s ceremonies, SOAS also honours leading figures from the fields of law, literature, journalism, and finance. The awardees are award-winning journalist Lindsey Hilsum, scholar, former banker and anti-corruption campaigner, His Highness Muhammad Sanusi II, CON (Sarkin Kano), editor, broadcaster and critic, Margaret Busby, human rights lawyer Nursyahbani Katjasungkana.