- I would like to introduce Alina Das,
professor of Clinical Law,
and James Weldon Johnson, professor NYU School of Law,
who will present the candidate for Doctor of Humane Letters.
Will trustee and chair designate Evan Chesler
please escort the candidate to the lectern?
(audience cheering and applauding)
- Sanna Marin, 46th Prime Minister of Finland.
You personify the promise of Finland’s robust democracy
You demonstrate successful humanitarian governance.
When appointed as Prime Minister in 2019,
you were the youngest person
to serve as a head of government,
leading an all-female coalition
and a majority female cabinet.
You support Finland’s exceptional education system
which is hailed for its respect for teachers,
excellence, and values of cooperation and equity.
As a fearless advocate for long-term stewardship
of the earth over expedient economic choices,
you continually address the urgent issues of climate change
and loss of biodiversity.
In your early and courageous promotion
on the global stage of European security
and the cause of freedom for Ukraine and NATO countries
and in your determination to bring your country into NATO,
you are a standard bearer for all.
You began your life in modest circumstances
and through your strength, leadership, and compassion
you have become a role model for anyone who dreams
of becoming an effective shepherd of positive change,
and you have shown the world that a fierce devotion
to public service and active engagement in every forum,
from neighborhood to nation,
can be accompanied by a joyful commitment
to family and community.
- Sanna Marin, governing with honor and honesty,
you model the possibilities of democracy in action
and the courage in standing up
for common security against aggression.
You represent the fulfillment of citizenship
and the impact of humane leadership.
By virtue of the authority vested in me,
I am pleased to confer upon you
the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa.
(audience cheering and applauding)
I am pleased to introduce Sanna Marin,
who will respond on behalf of the honoree degree recipients.
(audience cheering and applauding)
- Thank you and most importantly,
my warmest congratulations to the magnificent class of 2023
from New York University.
(audience cheering and applauding)
It is truly an honor to be here with you
on this prestigious occasion at NYU,
which has cultivated so many thinkers,
writers, scientists, and notable alumni.
I would also like to express my heartfelt gratitude
to the esteemed members of the faculty and the proud parents
and family members as well as devoted friends in attendance.
I want to say thank you to President Andrew Hamilton,
Board of Trustees Chairman William Berkeley,
all the trustees and esteemed faculty
who have all played a vital role
in making this day possible.
I’m deep grateful to receive this honorary degree
and I’m very proud to share this occasion
with my fellow honorary doctorates, Caroline Bertozzi,
Misty Copeland and Freeman Robowski,
who inspire me with their contribution to our world.
Most importantly, I’m deeply humbled
to be among you all today as we celebrate the achievement
and graduation at NYU’s class of 2023.
My dear graduates,
what can I say to you on this special day?
Today is your graduation day
and today when you close one chapter in your life
to begin a new one.
It is a turning point, a day of change.
This is why I thought it might be a good day
to talk about change
and to approach this theme through my own experience.
Ever since I was elected
as the youngest prime minister in the world
at the age of 34,
I have repeatedly been asked two questions.
Both are related to change.
The first question is,
did you always want to become a prime minister?
The second question, how did you do it?
I will now reflect on my own answers
and share some thoughts to prepare you
when you are asked similar questions in the future.
My answer to the first question is,
at a young age I did not want to become a politician
or a prime minister.
It wasn’t something that I had planned.
The answer to the second question is that I eventually did
because I wanted to change things, to change the world,
and because I realized that it’s also my responsibility,
not only somebody else’s.
I knew I had already been lectured a lot
since you were able to graduate
from this very special institution
but I thought I might add on that
by offering just a few small insights more.
This is why I want to give you three pieces
of advice about change.
Advice number one, you have the right to want things
and want things to change.
Advice number two, wanting is not enough.
To change things, you have to take over.
And advice number three, you have to stop being afraid.
My first bit of advice is about one thing, things to change.
When I was in my early 20s, like many of you now,
I started to feel passionately about politics,
not about the decision-making system,
not about the idea of being elected politician.
I started to feel passion for issues such as climate change,
loss of biodiversity, human rights,
and the rights of minorities,
gender equality and social justice,
things that I saw around me that I wanted to change.
I’m sure that many of you here today
can relate to that feeling.
Coming from a rainbow family,
I wanted to see society
where everybody could love whomever they wanted.
I wanted to see renewed legislation on equal marriage
and ensure human rights for all genders.
I wanted to close the gender pay gap
and wanted to see parents, mothers and fathers,
to share their family leaves more equally
so that women could follow
their career ambition same as men.
Coming from Finland,
a northern European country with extraordinary nature,
I wanted to stop climate change
and see societies become more sustainable.
I wanted to see transition towards carbon neutrality
and I wanted to end the destruction of our environment.
I wanted a society where everybody could have equal rights
I wanted to strengthen the education system
so that every child could pursue their dream.
One thing these changes was what made me
join my political party and run in elections.
No change can happen without the will.
This is why my first advice to you today
is that you are allowed to want things
and you need the want things to change for better.
Dear class of 2023,
my second piece of advice to you today
is that it’s also your responsibility to take over.
The world is as complex as ever.
Geopolitical changes going on in the world
are questioning the values we believe in.
Climate change and loss of biodiversity
are threatening our very existence.
Digitalization and the development
of artificial intelligence are about to
bring revolutionary changes to our societies.
These are challenges that need to be solved
and there’s no one else to do that other than you.
For decades, we have lived in a world
with an optimistic expectations of progress.
We have expected our values such as freedom of speech,
rule of law, gender equality, and democracy
to bloom hand-in-hand with the expansion of economy.
We thought that globalization
and growth would be enough to benefit everyone.
We expected to see less authoritarian rule,
more respect for diversity,
and better world that does not discriminate
against people based on their skin tone,
gender, sexual orientation, or religion.
We have expected the freedom of information
and the internet to broaden everyone’s understanding.
But the history did not end.
Freedom of speech and other true elements of democracy
are being questioned and limited all over the world.
Whether this means diminishing the truth with false balance
or using our personal data
to influence our democratic elections,
the rule of law as well as freedom of suppression
and the media need active defending.
Gender equality has taken leaps backwards across the globe.
The right to safe abortion is being limited also in Europe.
Different expressions of gender
are being presented as a threat.
The swollen amount of inequality and lack of social mobility
are challenging our ideas
about having the same possibilities and freedoms in life.
The tip of the iceberg of all of these worrying developments
is the return of war and heavy power politics
to the western sphere, to Europe.
Russia has broken the rules of the international order
we set up together after the world wars
by brutally and illegally attacking Ukraine
and in doing so it has questioned all
of the other rules as well.
All of these questions are battles of values
and we must all take a side on that battle.
There is no middle ground.
Combating climate change and biodiversity laws cannot wait
for more stable times.
You need to take over to solve them.
Problems caused by global warming,
such as extreme weather conditions, rising sea levels,
food shortages, and the disappearance of ecosystem,
affect all areas of life
and truly threaten the wellbeing of future generations.
Similarly, declining of biodiversity can lead
to an imbalance in ecosystems
which in turn can accelerate climate change
and other environmental disasters.
Stopping climate change and loss of biodiversity
are essential for the environment,
the economy, and people’s health.
It is clear that combating climate change
also requires international corporation
and sharing of responsibility among
all states in fair manner.
Building our future growth can be part of the solution.
You have all the skills to change the future
by pioneering in green technologies and digitalization.
This creates not only sustainable growth
but also innovations that can be replicated
in all corners of the world.
I’m sure you know much better than me how digitalization,
the development of artificial intelligence,
and quantum sciences
are about to bring revolutionary changes in our societies.
Yesterday, I had the amazing privilege
of visiting NYU’s standard campus in Brooklyn.
Seeing the most advanced science, innovation,
and teaching they do there made it even more evident
that the new technologies will define our societies
in the near future.
At the same time, we need amazingly talented people like you
to make sure that this technology
and these digital solutions are benefiting everyone.
New technology has revolutionized people’s lives
in many ways, but their development
also brings new challenges as privacy protection.
AI-based systems, for example, are often dependent
on a large amount of personal data.
At the same time,
they may reproduce discriminatory structures
that exist elsewhere in society.
They can also be misused for surveillance purposes,
among other things.
The global competition for standards and values,
such as individual freedom and security
behind quantum computing, artificial intelligence,
or 6G networks is already on its way,
and you need to step up to take part in this debate.
This, dear graduates, is the present and the future
and it’s your responsibility
to make sure that this change is on the right track.
And you know what?
If you believe that the system
and the whole world has to be reformed
into being more democratic,
more equal for all genders and groups,
more supportive for freedom of expression,
you can make that happen.
If you want to influence global warming and safe ecosystems,
If you want to build new technology
and artificial intelligence that works
for the benefit of all in an ethical and sustainable way,
My third piece of advice to you, dear graduates,
is about how.
When I look back at my youth and career,
I can see that actually one
of the most significant things holding people back is fear.
Sometimes it’s fear of not knowing enough.
It might be fear of embarrassment, fear of mistakes,
fear of being wrong.
It might be fear of not fitting in
or fear of not meeting the expectations of others.
It might be fear of being declared unworthy
because of the way you look or talk
and the way you express yourself.
Luckily and unfortunately, there is no superior authority
in this world giving us permissions to be ourselves
and to step forward to change the world.
If I have waited for permission from others
to take my stand,
I would still be waiting for that permission.
This is why my key advice to you today
is not actually an advice but the task.
Stop being afraid.
My dear class of 2023,
when you walk out of the stadium today,
I want want you to remember these three things.
You have to want things to change.
It is your turn to take over.
And most importantly, don’t be afraid.
You are enough.
You are capable.
Together with others, you can do anything
and you must because there’s no one else to do it but you.
Dear class, why am I telling you this?
Why am I giving you these advices?
Because there are not nearly enough women
in leadership positions, not nearly enough young people,
not nearly enough people from different backgrounds
in our democratic decision-making systems.
The face of the power is not the same
as the face of the people, and this has to change.
I also want things to change, but I cannot do it alone.
I need you and others with me to make the world more equal,
more sustainable, and more just.
I know I’m not alone with this thought.
I know many of you want the same
and together we can make it a reality.
So now we just have to do it.
Dear class, I’m so happy to be here today
with you in New York, one of the greatest
and most progressive cities in the world,
and once again, my warmest congratulations
to the magnificent graduating class of 2023
from New York University.