Rector Dema, Minister Bajrami, distinguished guests, and most importantly, members of the 2017 graduating class of the University of Pristina. Mirëdita, dobar dan, good afternoon.
Are you happy!?
It is a pleasure to be here with you today to mark the commencement of UP, and to honor your hard work and accomplishments as students here. You have all followed different paths to find yourself here, but today you sit united by your common goal—to make a positive mark on the future of Kosovo as a member of the UP Class of 2017.
Now, I know you’ve been sitting with your head in the books for weeks, but I’m guessing you’ve still noticed that there is an election coming up. And while I’m not here today to talk about politics, I would like to take just a couple of minutes to talk about leadership. After all, as graduates of Kosovo’s oldest and largest institution of higher education, you are the newest class of Kosovo’s future leaders.
Maybe some of you had the opportunity to visit a photo exhibition that my Embassy recently hosted with the National Library.
It featured photographs and stories from the life and times of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, and it included a couple of thoughts that I think are particularly important for young leaders like you.
President Kennedy defined leadership through four important qualities. He said that a nation needs leaders with the judgment, the dedication, the integrity, and the courage to think beyond traditional politics; those who will use these four qualities to embrace difficult decisions and to act in the best interest of the entire nation and the collective good.
Now, Kennedy came from a big family, but he didn’t talk about using his authority to advance the interests of his brothers, or his cousins, or his political party; no – he said leaders need to act in the best interests of the nation and the collective good. I believe that these are the ideals to which we must hold our leaders — but also the ideals to which we must hold ourselves.
These qualities also translate to the actions that political leaders take. You may have heard about the Code of Conduct that political party representatives signed yesterday. This was organized by a civil society organization – the Balkans Policy Research Group, led by a distinguished UP graduate named Naim Rashiti.
In the code, the parties have voluntarily committed to:
I believe this Code of Conduct is an excellent recipe for an election that all citizens of Kosovo can be proud of. I urge all those who are active in this campaign and election process to uphold these principles.
President Kennedy also had important thoughts about democratic norms, not just for political leaders, but also for citizens. “In a democracy,” President Kennedy was fond of saying, “every citizen, regardless of his [or her] interest in politics, ‘holds office’; every one of us is in a position of responsibility; and … the kind of government we get depends upon how we fulfill those responsibilities. We, the people, are the boss, and we will get the kind of political leadership, be it good or bad, that we demand and deserve.”
In the 2014 national elections only 44% of Kosovo’s citizens ages 18-29 voted.
That’s not enough. Your future – the future of your age group – is on the line. Your future as Europeans, I hope as citizens of a future EU member state — or not. These things will be determined by the people you elect on June 11.
There is one more thing I want to mention. I read an interesting article quoting a Kosovo analyst; it said that the international community would decide who would win the election. Now, I checked with my diplomatic colleagues, and it turns out, that none of them has had the time to schedule a meeting to make such a decision; neither have I. So, I guess that means the decision is up to you, the citizens, as it should be.
Now during the campaign and soon in the voting booth, you are ‘the boss’, as President Kennedy called you — and it is up to you to demand the type of political leadership that you deserve. Not just for the upcoming elections, but for the future of Kosovo. Maybe we could call this your first test as graduates of the University of Pristina.
Congratulations once again on your graduation. I mean it when I say that you are the future leaders of this country, and I look forward to seeing the UP class of 2017 make a positive mark on the future of Kosovo.