SOAS University of London

SOAS President Gra├ža Machel champions social justice at vibrant Graduation Ceremonies

8 August 2014

Global stateswoman and renowned humanitarian Graça Machel gave an inspirational President’s speech at the 2014 graduation ceremonies of SOAS, University of London, in which she called for worldwide education for women and the end of gender based violence.

Graca graduation

Mrs Machel has been at the heart of African and international politics for decades, working as a tireless and influential advocate for education and for the rights of women and children.  In her powerful address at SOAS, Mrs Machel spoke of how she and her late husband, former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela, believed wholeheartedly that education was the key to social justice in this world, an idea she summed up as ‘empowerment.’  

She urged the audience of graduates and guests not to turn a blind eye to social injustice, saying: “Your personal freedom, that you have been privileged with, will never be complete while others are denied the same kind of freedom.”

Calling on SOAS graduates to go out into the world, to be passionate about what they do and, perhaps most importantly, create their own definition of success, Mrs Machel said: “Money and power are often seen as measures of success, yet for me, success is to have peace of mind, attained through the knowledge that that I made my best effort, to do the best of which I am capable.”

This year Mrs Machel presided over SOAS’ biggest ever Graduation, addressing five ceremonies over three days, in which more than 1500 undergraduate, masters and postgraduate students graduated in front of an audience of 3500 family members, academic staff, friends and guests of the School.
During the famously lively ceremonies, SOAS also awarded honorary degrees and fellowships to recognise the achievements of three distinguished guests. Humanitarian campaigner Phuntsog Wangyal was made an Honorary Fellow in recognition of his work with the Tibet Foundation. Honorary degrees were awarded to Professor Howard Goldblatt, influential translator of modern and contemporary Chinese literature and Ping-cheng T’ung, co-author of Colloquial Chinese, the most influential textbook for the study of Mandarin Chinese in the UK and elsewhere in the English-speaking world.

Professor Paul Webley, Director of SOAS, said: ‘It was a particular privilege to welcome our President, Graça Machel, to SOAS at the high-point of our year, as we celebrated the achievements of our students. Her charismatic presence brought great dignity and a global perspective to our celebrations. As a leading advocate for social and political change on a huge scale, in the fight against poverty, illiteracy and injustice, Mrs Machel’s achievements resonate with our own research and teaching. She is an inspirational leader for the whole SOAS community.”