The 57 students who celebrated their Graduation Day today come from 16 countries: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, South Korea, Ethiopia, Germany, Japan, Italy, Mali, Mexico, Ghana, United States, South Africa, Switzerland and Thailand.
The Italia students come from the following 12 regions: Piedmont, Liguria, Lombardy, Veneto, Friuli, Marche, Umbria, Lazio, Puglia, Campania, Calabria and Sicily.
The ceremony began with a long procession formed by the students, lecturers, the dean Piercarlo Grimaldi, the president of the University Carlo Petrini, and guests Letizia Moratti, co-founder of the San Patrignano Foundation, Marcello Masi, journalist and editor of RAI TG2 news, and Otto Bitjoka, an economist, founder of the Ethnoland Foundation and vice-president of Extrabanca, Italy’s first bank for immigrants.
Donning academic caps and tabarri, or tabards, the traditional black cloaks of the Langa district, the participants walked from the Agenzia di Pollenzo courtyard to the parish church of San Vittore, where the names of the graduates were proclaimed and the guests spoke about their own graduation ceremonies.
Dean Piercarlo Grimaldi welcomed the students and their families and reminded them of the importance of the ceremony.
“Graduation Day is a young but felicitous tradition of ours. The rite is a moment of joy, of sharing, of celebration, and it already seems firmly rooted in the local area. Dear students, today you are leaving Pollenzo but you are not leaving its community. Here you have learned the deep significance of ‘food, clean and fair,’ you have understood the central role of food as a factor in political, social and economic development, and how the ethical reasons of food must be part of our consciences and world freedom. It is our hope that this store of knowledge will represent a base of solid values on which to build your professional lives as new gastronomes and active members of a juster, more humane society, of modernity.”
It was then the guests’ turn to speak.
“My heartfelt thanks to the dean and to my friend Petrini, and congratulations to the students graduating at this wonderful university whose birth I’m proud of contributing to,” said Letizia Moratti.“I still remember the excitement of my own graduation in Political Sciences when I was 21, with a thesis on European Community law. The subject was bound up with the concept of the building of a united Europe, which has since become an irreversible process, now in need of rediscovering the values of solidarity among peoples. You have much wider horizons in a world that is suffering from a profound cultural crisis, the crisis of an economic and social model that doesn’t work any more. You have great opportunities because moments of crisis can also be moments of change, and your qualifications will be useful in creating a different world. The science you have studied is central to the building of this new world. The challenges you have to face are very big indeed: the defense of biodiversity, a new balance between human beings and nature, the reduction of waste and inequality. They demand the knowledge you have acquired over the last few years, but also values and ideals: namely passion, desire and conscientiousness, to change the world beginning from the small things”.
“This university is the brainchild of Carlo Petrini,” said Marcello Masi in his speech, “a visionary project that has always impressed me and won me over. It was well worth pushing through. This isn’t a university concerned only with food and agriculture, but a place where students exchange ideas and grow up together. It’s a model that ought to be taught in schools.”
“My experience and my person draw a vision of what these young people will have to face in the future,” explained Otto Bitjoka, “They are the best ambassadors for the challenge. We are passing on to them what we were unable to do. What they have to do is learn to steal the fire of wisdom and transform what is apparently untransformable. This is the alchemy we expect from these young people. So walk straight and think ahead, conscious that you have grown up in a place that has trained you to be human beings, too. I come from Africa and I say to you that we can fight the same battles together, working for development and changing the paradigms of distribution. The key word is hybridization: we have to affect each other to find together a new model of development useful for all. Feeding the planet, the theme of the Expo, is a universal mission: we have a highway ahead of us, it all depends on you.”
Carlo Petrini brought the. “We are here today to reaffirm our affection and our hope,” he said,“indeed our certainty that you’ll all cut a fine figure when you return home to your countries and your native regions. To date 75 countries have been represented at Pollenzo, and this is a motive of great pride for us. I feel sure you’ll maintain a link with the Langa district. I’d like to remind you that one of the songs we’re going to sing together, “La Rondinella”, tells the story of a swallow that flies out into the world but always returns to its nest. Your nest is here in Pollenzo. So keep up your ‘austere anarchy and don’t forget to stay happy.”