Our global graduation in St. Petersburg had everything any other would have. The long queuing and waiting process. The overly excited and slightly tiring, yet simply loving parents. Inspiring speeches which people would later debate -- were they full of empty words or shining indicators along the right staircase to success in life? The delicate touch of a bittersweet atmosphere of endings, turning into genesis. Oh yes, and of course the dancing. The silent and the loud farewells. People happily dozing in the lobby, after too much champagne.
It's usually tough to forecast what your subconscious will process of this, to turn into ever-lasting memories. But this time, the picture is strikingly vivid. The two moments I will recount to my children and my grandchildren, if they ever ask me what made my heart stop. At my graduation. Back in 2015.
I'm not talking about the tremendous gratitude I feel for having had the privilege to graduate in the St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theatre with 572 of my peers from 29 leading internationally spread business schools and 1000 guests from more than 50 countries. Nor the gamut of reasons which make the CEMS Global Alliance in Management Education a unique and extraordinary place to have studied. That's not it.
No. It's something bigger. Bigger than any single one of us. And bigger than everything that we could ever be together. It is the very definition of an era and a generation.
What if Putin & Erdogan had been fellow CEMSies?
One of graduation's defining moments was the beginning of Guillaume Klossa's authentic speech honoring those who could not attend the ceremony in Russia. We live in a complex world. And we only tend to notice how unfair life is, once we are personally involved in its complexity. The sheer superfluity of denying some our dearest friends, fellow classmates and future business partners from Turkey access to Russia, because of the current state of international bilateral affairs. This is the moment to realise that every decision our leaders take affect people. It's always about people. I cannot imagine the ineffable sadness among those young peers of mine who arrived by plane in Russia with a valid visa, their hearts soaked with vorfreude and pleasant memories they share with their Russian, Chilean or German - multilocal peers - only to be turned away at the airport. You were not forgotten.
When entering the global CEMS network we made a choice. We made a choice to become global citizens. How ever locally-rooted we are cheering for our national football teams, with every single semester we gain the friendship of fellow students from 29 universities and even more nationalities. While prior to CEMS we might have overlooked such international incidents, today we cannot. They affects us. Always. Because we have friends in all of these countries. Because we all belong to one family. We are one.
But even amidst these problematic governmental decisions we will not let our compassion for one another change. Rather, we should take this as a call, to embrace what unites us. Drawing upon the value of cultural diversity with respect and empathy, we shall do whatever we can to always remain united.
Whoever kills a soul, it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one - it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.
In the same vein flows the second moment I pledge not to forget; our CEMS values read aloud, followed by personal words from Filipa Correia de Araujo & Arthur Brun. When Arthur was speaking about the loss of his friend during the Paris Attacks, my eyes were full of tears. My soul still is. He was right. He was not speaking to us as a French citizen. He was speaking to us as a friend. A friend and a member of our global community, which exists beyond our classmates, schools or citizenships.
We still live in a world of unspeakable atrocities. However, we in fact live in one of the most peaceful periods in all of history. The largest 44 economies of the world have not battled each other since World War II. Such lasting peace hasn't been experienced since the Roman Empire. But these numbers don't impress us much when we hear about terrorist attacks in the most vibrant of our homes - be they in Ankara, Beirut, Paris or Syria. We feel them in our bones. We will solve this issue only by standing side-by-side with our peers, not divided into nationalities, religious groups or any other label humans have created. We can be the very first generation which fails to see the logic or pride in defining ourselves by anything else but what is found within ourselves: our values. What already makes us stronger than any generation in history is our heartfelt global empathy. Cheesily put, our love and our friendship. And we must sing unisono the values Filipa & Arthur espoused.
And we, who sat in classes together, who watch the sad daily news with the greatest disgust, who have at least one friend of another skin color, religious belief or sexual orientation. We must be the ones. To lead.
To everyone out there believing in the success of dividing us. You will fail. Our community is strong - it is stronger than ever before. And we will stand. In unity. Stand up for what we believe is right. And will end, end what we have started: A Global Alliance.
We will not tolerate that these attacks divide us, because that is what they want.
We will not tolerate that these attacks lead us to putting a religious label on terrorism, because no human faith allows the killings of the innocent.
We will not tolerate that these attacks lead to fight hate with hate, because hate is what drives them.
This is our future and our legacy.
Foto credit: ВШМ СПбГУ / GSOM SPbU