Clare Humphreys’ recent commencement address at Corvinus University, Budapest

Ms. Clare Humphreys is a recent graduate of Corvinus University, Budapest and she gave a remarkable graduation speech on July 23, 2019. We decided to publish the full text of her speech with a brief bio and the link to the video of her address.
Clare Humphreys
Good evening, friends, family, colleagues, professors! Presidium, your Excellency. Thank you for coming.
The ceremony is almost over and then we can throw our hats and toast to our success and then say our goodbyes.. I’m not looking forward to the last part. The thing about international students in a program like ours is that we need one another; we need others who experience the same ‘U-Curve’ rollercoaster of culture shock with us. We also need local students, our guides without whom we would be completely lost. When I arrived I knew no one and I am leaving this place with a rich, diverse and supportive community. I would not be here were it not for you and I cannot accept this honor as speaker alone. My advantages as a native English speaker, an older student and an outgoing person put me here but I can point out so many people in this class who were more focused learners, more dedicated student leaders, more innately intelligent, more devoted to and passionate about their studies than I was. Congratulations to everyone single one of you- you worked so hard to get here and you deserve recognition for that.
There are also many people who are not here today but should be. Some continue to work for their degrees, writing at their own pace. We recognize their determination. Some have been hindered by the university’s complex bureaucracy so they will remain here longer. We sympathize with their frustration. Some have left for their own reasons and we wish them the best. There is also one person who will forever be missing from our community and should be here with us today. I have been asked by my classmates to hold space for a moment of silence in honor of our friend Nurad. Please join me in remembering him….. Thank you.
There are also many people without whom none of us would be here and I’ve been asked to thank them on behalf of our whole class. I can’t name them all but a very very special thanks goes to our angel in the coordinator’s office – Dorottya. You have been unwaveringly supportive, attentive and present for us. Thank you. Also, the security officer whose name we never asked but whose face we will always remember- he made us feel welcome every time we walked through the door, no matter how much we had just wanted to stay home or go out with our friends. Then there was the janitorial and tech support staff members who were always helpful and sympathetic. Another special thanks to all the PhD students who taught us almost everything we know for next to no pay- your labor is literally what keeps this place going. And of course there are the professors who enlightened us, and those who treated us with respect and listened to us when we went to them with our problems. A million times thank you to everyone who listened, who helped.
This ceremony is the end of more than just our personal stay at Corvinus, it is also the end of an era for this historic University. As of next year Corvinus will be transformed from a public school serving the population of Hungary into a private institution, owned by a bank and an oil company and run by a close friend of the prime minister. I know I’m not supposed to put this so bluntly but I’m honestly terrified about the future of my alma mater, and our planet in general. The Ministry of Innovation and Technology which now controls this University has already compromised the integrity of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences by stripping it of its research network, taking over its buildings and diverting its funding. Who knows what is in store for our troubled but resilient University? It survived socialism but how will it fare under neoliberalism? Already the administration has cut merit-based tuition reimbursement and promised to replace almost a third of the Hungarian students with internationals, whom they hope will help them turn a profit for their foundation. I know this game. I am an economic migrant from the American University system. I came here to avoid the shackles of debt and now I am watching my University implement the same policies that are drowning my friends back home. Is this what Corvinus 2030 will look like? Is this what we represent as alumni? A broken system, an oil company? My dearest hope is that this University will flourish and stay true to its mission to provide education for all Hungarians, that it will fill the gap that the CEU’s exile leaves in this country’s academic landscape. Only time will tell.
Corvinus is at a crossroads, along with this country, this continent and the rest of our world. We are staring into the face of ecological catastrophe and have only a decade to change the course of Earth’s history. So no, I will not represent oil interests or an educational system that arrests social progress. I represent only myself and a desire I share with countless others to help this world survive the Sixth Mass Extinction with the least possible suffering. This is our purpose and our challenge- the world needs us to act now and nothing we do is accomplished alone. I learned that here at Corvinus.
Many of the people in this room are regretting allowing me the honor of speaking today so I want to end this uncomfortable speech on a positive note. No matter how difficult the future may seem, no matter how daunting the task at hand appears, my heart tells me we can do this. Everyone walking across this stage today has shown their perseverance, dedication and brilliance in getting here. We have taken a huge step today; we have gained invaluable skills and tools over the last years and today we say we are ready to apply them to whatever comes next.
Friends, Colleagues, Graduates. I am so happy to say congratulations again! So here’s to our bright future, our success and our milestone! Please join me in cheering for every person in this room because we did this together!
***
Clare Humphreys is a recent graduate of the Corvinus Communications and Media English degree program. Prior to and during her stay in Hungary she taught English. While in Hungary she became engaged in the local civil society working at Közkincs Könyvtár, a feminist community library, and attending and supporting events in autonomous spaces such as Aurora. At Corvinus, she helped to found the first international student organization, Budapest Blend, led by foreign students in order to advocate for their own rights within the institution. After the eventful summer of 2018 with the gender ban, the expulsion of CEU, the announcement of privatization of Corvinus and the events at the MTA, Clare became more involved in activism. She was present at the occupation of Kossuth Lajos tér, the slave law protests and other demonstrations. She organized primarily with Szabad Egyetem and Hallgatói Szakszervezet. The skills and experience she gained while working alongside Hungarian and foreign activists are immeasurable; she hopes to apply these in her next chapter in Gothenburg, Sweden.
For the video of the speech please click here.

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Author: HungarianFreePress.com

Established in 2014, Hungarian Free Press is an English-language online newspaper offering informed opinion on current events in East/Central Europe. While we focus primarily on Hungarian political news, we also aim to explore broader regional trends, as well as diaspora-related issues. Our paper seeks to build on the longstanding tradition of free, democratic discourse in European coffee houses and aims to develop into a dynamic and energetic news source for inquisitive English readers interested in the political, cultural and economic pressures in Hungary, whilst offering succinct, pertinent information and insightful commentary on broader developments in this region. The Hungarian Free Press is a non-partisan news source, with all of our content (whether news pieces or op-eds) reflecting the following democratic values: - Social justice for all, and especially for those living on the margins of society; - Cultural, linguistic and religious diversity, and a respect for individual creativity and ingenuity; - A respect for minority rights, including those of ethnic, linguistic, cultural, religious or sexual minorities; - Support for rigorous checks and balances within our political system; - Healthy, democratic public institutions where a plurality of backgrounds and views are accepted and encouraged and where party interests do not override public interest; The responsible and sustainable use of our natural resources in business practices, when implementing public policy and in all activity. A growing segment of Hungary’s media has either shied away from defending these core liberal democratic values in its reporting, or has come under the political influence of the Orbán government, which enjoys a supermajority in parliament, has declared the termination of liberal democracy as one of its primary objectives and exerts unprecedented control over the judiciary, the public service, cultural and educational institutions, as well as the press.