The Royal Albert Hall, 19 October 2016

Members of Court and Council, colleagues, distinguished honourees, and most especially, our graduates and family members. It is my honour, as President of Imperial College London, to welcome you to Commemoration Day 2016.

We gather today to celebrate, and to congratulate our graduates. We wish them well in their future endeavours.

Graduates, we applaud your many accomplishments during your time at Imperial. You are exceptional individuals with a multitude of talents.  You have demonstrated your ability as students, athletes, musicians, entrepreneurs, community volunteers and in countless other ways.  You used your time here wisely both inside and outside the lecture halls and labs. You leave this place with a broader perspective and deeper understanding of the world and prepared to address the challenges that confront it.

Your education, talents and perspective are needed now more than ever. 

And there are many challenges:

Food security; climate change; health care; chronic disease; infectious disease; weaknesses in the global financial system; clean water; and many other complex, seemingly intractable problems confront the world today.

Finding solutions requires people who are technically adept.

It requires people with an educational foundation in science, engineering, medicine or business. People who can work across these disciplinary boundaries.  People who are trained to think rigorously and to question the status quo.

Finding solutions to complex problems requires people who know that extremely difficult does not mean impossible.

Your Imperial education has been a privilege.  It is a privilege that comes with responsibility. You have the ability, and the responsibility, to improve the world and serve others. I know that you will carry out this responsibility well, through your individual and collaborative efforts.

Imperial College London is a European University and, in fact, a global University. This has given you a rare opportunity to benefit from being part of Imperial’s international community. You have learned from academics who may have been born in one country, educated in another and who collaborate globally in their research.  You have shared classes and made lasting friendships with students from all over the world.

The major problems facing the world extend beyond national borders and they demand global cooperation and collaboration.

We need people who understand that the well-being of a nation is enhanced, not hindered, by working for the global good. 

We benefit from mobility and the opportunity to collaborate with people all over the world. Today, scientists, business leaders, engineers, medics and entrepreneurs often have lived in multiple countries and they collaborate freely with colleagues across the planet.

The world comes together, across disciplinary and political boundaries, to address world health crises such as SARS, Ebola or MERS. Last February, ten days after the World Health Organization declared a health emergency in response to Zika, 30 scientific journals, research institutes and non-profit groups based in Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and the US, signed a data sharing agreement.

Around the world academics, governments, and corporations are collaborating to understand and defeat this disease. They are working together to map the genome of the Aedes mosquito, to understand the pathways of infection, and to work on effective detection, prevention and treatment. Researchers are collaborating to overcome this global threat and, it is irrelevant where they were born or what passport they hold. 

You are entering a world with intensive globalization along with serious backlash to it. In a recent 18-nation survey 51 percent of respondents considered themselves more as global citizens than citizens of the country where they were born. In some countries these numbers are increasing while in others, especially in Europe, global citizenship is on the decline. 

I urge you to maintain your global perspective in your careers and personal life. Continue to work, collaborate, think and act internationally.

All of us here today are proud of you, and we are excited by everything that you will accomplish.  Our 190,000 alumni are proud to welcome you to join a distinguished group pursuing rewarding and successful lives doing myriad interesting things all around the world.

As you leave Imperial, use your technical knowledge and your global perspective to help shape the future. Be active participants in solving the problems of today and the problems that will arise in the years ahead. 

We look forward to hearing from you. We promise to keep in touch with you and we hope that you will come back as alumni and inspire the next generation of students with your successes.  Congratulations.