It is a great privilege for me to be addressing your university’s community today and
this is not merely a polite phrase, it is a true privilege. I think of your university as a real
university and of the people who have gathered here as those who are a real elite. And so,
being with you to share my thoughts is a real privilege.
As you have noticed already, I like the word “real.” It is a very important word.
These days, we have almost devalued and lost it. In a world of items that can just be thrown
away, this word seems redundant. In a world of unstable relationships, we seem to talk less
and less about real friends. In a world where “nothing is true and everything is possible”
(which is not just a phrase, but the actual title of a non-fiction book written by the British
journalist, Peter Pomerantsev), it is complicated to find something real.
Because it’s so hard to find something real, we have an enormous need for everything
to be real, including education. This is another important word, which requires our thorough
consideration. “Real education.” What does it mean? It is an education which helps us to
become and remain real. It is also an education that helps us to not only adapt to life
circumstances or become intelligent, but to become real. And to be real means to find your
image, to shape yourself in a right way, in accordance to that image.
In the Russian language, the word “education” (“obrazovanie”) points towards an
image as something principal. Education is forming an image to something that does not
have an image. Whose image do we look at and who do we want to resemble? I know that
you have great instructors who deserve to be seen as standards of excellence. Think about
something else. What inspires and unites them? It is their Christian tradition. I am a professor
at Ukrainian Catholic University, and we also emphasize our Christian identity at this
institution. You can see Christ in the classes and hallways; His image has been imprinted in
our ideas, traditions, and worldview. He inspires us not only to gain knowledge, but to grow
in our love towards other people. He provides us such crucial confidence in a world which is
driven by fear and chaos.
A real university helps its students form an integral image — both their way of
thinking and their holistic non-contradicting personality. You will meet many people in this
world – the clever and the evil, the successful and the deceitful; however, that’s not what we
choose to be we don’t need to live in these moral conflicts. Be yourselves. Be complete,
integral, holistic, wholesome.
Another important word, which helps us become and remain real, is the word dream.
We are able to develop only when we are driven forward, when we see a goal in front or
above us. Our dreams should be as high as the stars. Maybe they seem unreachable, but our
lives pass under their light.
I like Martin Luther King very much. His most famous speech is titled “I Have a
Dream.” During that speech in Washington, D.C, the Queen of Gospel music, Mahalia
Jackson told him, “Tell them about the dream, Martin.” Martin said, “I have a dream that one
day this nation will raise up.” And today I ask you: What do you dream about? What will you
be able to tell others about your dream? I am confident that you were taught to dream about
many things. However, while dreaming about your career, success, and recognition, please do
not forget about your nation. Dream that your nation will rise up one day, that there will be
enough prosperity, dignity and freedom for everyone.
In 1957, while being in exile in Siberia, the founder of our university (Ukrainian
Catholic University in Rome), Metropolitan Josyf Slipyj said, “ “Seek Greatness… Human
beings grow with their ambitions, with their designs. High ideals elevate humans… It is true,
not everyone was born a genius… But everyone can do good things, and in everything that is
good, there is something great.”
“Seek Greatness,” these words have become one of our university’s mottos. And I
offer it to you as a part of our university’s heritage, as a spiritual gift, as a sincere wish.
However, you have to work hard in order to make the dream come true. “Take it and
do it.” This is the second motto of our university, which adds an action component to the
dream, and makes the dream come true. Studying is also a job in itself. Get used to doing
everything for real. This is called professionalism at work. True professionals are not those
people who know how to cheat their way through exams or any other situation; not those who
have simply connections and status to move them forward. Professionals are those who are
being valued for their competence even by their enemies. Professionals are those who know
how to do things, and who love doing them. Professionals are those who live their lives
driven by their calling.
The word calling points not only towards us, but towards the One who is calling us. In
our studies and work we respond to the calling of God, to his invitation to cooperate in
making the world a better place, to work towards high and noble aims. And then everything
that we do will become the mission. I love the word mission, partly because I actively work
in an international ministry, serving people from post-Soviet countries by providing them
Gospel insight and charitable help. This is a miraculous connection – education and mission –
since university is a form of mission. We prepare our alumni to go out into the world as
messengers who are called upon to change this world for the better. Not without reason, the
American philosopher James Smith pointed out the similarity of university and church as two
unique places for purposeful formation of one’s personality and further sending of the alumni
to the big world,” the way the students leave their school at the graduation ceremony is the
same way Christians leave the church service – with the blessing and obligation that they are
being sent both into the world and for the world.”
And the final word.The word that inspires, but also obliges very much. How can we
call those who are perfectly educated, who seek greatness, who are ready to grow
professionally and see their mission in this world through their professions? We can describe
that person in one word — elite. Elite are educated professionals who have not stopped
dreaming and carrying out their mission in the world. Graduates, I encourage you to be that
Mykhailo ( Michael) Cherenkov,
Professor at the Ukrainian Catholic University,
Mission Eurasia Field Ministries Executive Director