Ambassador Hall Remarks at the Graduation Ceremony for the International Program Students of VMU


Ambassador Remarks at the Graduation Ceremony for the International Program Students of the Faculty of Political Science and Diplomacy

Vytautas Magnus University (VMU), Kaunas

June 22, 2018


Good afternoon. It is a tremendous pleasure for me to be here to address you at this important milestone in your lives as you graduate from Vytautas Magnus University.  I am especially honored to be asked to participate in the graduation ceremony for the International Program students.  It is wonderful to see that the Lithuanian graduates are joined by fellow students from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Russia, Ukraine, Cyprus, Estonia, and Italy.

Graduating from the International Program – regardless of your field of study – gives you an extraordinary advantage.  Studying alongside foreign students and, for many of you, studying in a foreign country, provided you the benefit of eye-opening international experience.

In today’s world, virtually everything is influenced by global events:  business, trade, communications, politics.  It is essential for anyone who wants to succeed in these fields to have an astute awareness of global issues.  A new EU regulation coming from Brussels can impact your business operations.  Foreign trade legislation in Germany can help or hinder your company’s international sales.  What international media commentators are saying about your country can affect your company’s ability to attract foreign investment.

The world is getting smaller, which means building international alliances is more important than ever.  The word “ally” is not just a political or military term.  Alliances are vital in business and trade, media and communications, and social affairs.  You may not realize it, but you have already started building your global alliances during your time at Vytautas Magnus University.  The connections you made here – friends, fellow students, professors, advisors – are your allies.  Don’t just hold on to those connections, nurture them and take care of them.  Good alliances help grow your networks, spark new opportunities, and provide support in a competitive world.

During my time in Lithuania, I have come to admire Lithuanians’ love of place, their connection to the land and nature.  I see it even in Lithuanians who are far from home; no matter where they wander, their connection to their homeland remains strong.  That is something I will take with me when I eventually leave Lithuania. Like many of you, I am a visitor in Lithuania.  So, to those of you who are also visitors in Lithuania about to head home, and to the Lithuanians whose journey may take them to other places, always keep a part of Lithuania with you.

What comes next?  Just as the world is getting smaller, so it seems that time moves quicker.  What used to take months or years, now takes weeks.  What innovations will Europe see in the next ten years?  How will you contribute?

There is a wave of momentum riding through Lithuania and Europe right now.  As you graduate today, you have the opportunity to catch the crest of that wave and ride it.  I am very excited about the future and just as eager to see what your role in Europe’s future will be.

At this important transition point in your lives, you are leaving the relative safety and predictability of the university environment for the precarious and mysterious “real world.”  Step into that world with the confidence of a Vytautas Magnus University graduate!

A while ago I came across something Sheryl Sandburg, COO of Facebook, said that echoed the way I look at life.  She said “There is no straight path from your seat today to where you are going.  Don’t try to draw that line.  You will not just get it wrong, you’ll miss big opportunities.  And I mean big – like the Internet.  Careers are not ladders, those days are long gone, but jungle gyms.  Don’t just move up and down, don’t just look up, look backwards, sideways around corners.  Your career and your life will have starts and stops and zigs and zags.  Don’t stress out about the white space – the path you can’t draw – because therein lies both the surprises and the opportunities.”

So as you take your rightful place in the “real world” and become innovators here in Lithuania or in your home country, I encourage you not to fear the white spaces when your path is unclear.  Those are the times in life when often the most important growth occurs.

Follow Lithuania’s example of embracing innovation and new ideas, while at the same time treasuring time-honored values and the lessons of history.  Respect the past, but don’t let it hold you back.  Welcome the future optimistically, with the wisdom of history to guide you.  No one ever accomplished anything without the optimism of belief in the future – there is no place for cynicism in success.  Seek the same balance in life that Lithuanians find in nature.

Thank you for letting me share this wonderful day with you.  I wish you all a bright future!


Photos courtesy of Jonas Petronis/Vytautas Magnus University.