Jennifer Lenhart's '07 (USA) speech at the 2009 CEU Opening Ceremony

Dear friends,


I wanted to share something kind of exciting for me, to be featured on the front page of Central European University (now on , in the same 'features' section as the well-renown economist, Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize Laureate who recently spoke at CEU.  I assume his words and speech were anticipated with far more expectations and interest than my simple sentiments at the 2009 Opening Ceremony.  All the same, I enjoy to be engaged with CEU and watch it develop. 


To be asked to give the alumni speech at the opening ceremony of an international university was humbling and an honour, as there are certainly graduates who have reached farther, created greater change and taken bolder steps along the way.  If there was a reason for this, I can assume it to be a mix of sincerity and conviction.  


When one attempts to work hard for something they believe in (as I have learned from many of friends, family and colleagues and this is why I include you in this email)... it is nice that others recognise and appreciate our work, providing confidence and encouragement to continue to do what we can, in little and big ways, to attempt to be a small part of positive change.


The text of my speech is attached. Nothing incredibly significant or mind-altering I promise you; but I was happy to see this and wanted to share it. Thank you for the support, the lessons and being an important part of my life now, before, and I hope, in the future…



Ladies and Gentlemen;

Professors and Colleagues;

Your Excellencies;

Rector Shattuck and the esteemed faculty of CEU:


Let me start by reflecting on the great honour it is to be here before you today.  And while this may seem like a redundant opening line, I can vouch for the sincerity of such a statement. 


We gather here today, from near and far, a diverse audience of mixed backgrounds, of varied professional and academic experiences… but with a few things in common:


Budapest – most certainly – but more so, what resonates stronger is what brought us here in the first place: Central European University.


We, as its present and former student body, come to learn of the great minds of past and present:

Of history,

Of science,

Of culture,

Of politics…


We come to listen to professors and lecturers, to debate theories, to question what is written, to challenge our course mates, and in doing so, to challenge ourselves. 


And during this, the CEU journey, both in the classroom, and importantly in our day-to-day interactions with each other, we have learned a great deal of the current state of the world, where it is headed and where and how we can be a part of it. 


Because CEU is not any ordinary university: it is unique in its mandate, it is unique in its international student body; it is unique in its place in the world.


CEU, by its very foundation, stands at the door of democracy and the values of an open society.


But CEU does not simply knock lightly at this door, but boldly pounds – a sound and a movement that can be heard and felt in close proximity and resonating in distant reaches. 


It represents the very notion of responsibility to society, that academia was founded upon.


This is CEU, and this is us.


At the crossroads of history and geography, we come to learn, to be challenged, work hard and then – most important of all – at the end of our journey, we are obligated to put our experience and learning into action. 

But how do we do that?


The late president, John F. Kennedy once stated: “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”


So then, we are called to be leaders, and leaders we have become. 

But importantly, we have learned the different facets of leadership, and in humility we have also learned to follow: to sometimes speak, and sometimes listen. 


We have learned to work together.



I am constantly amazed and encouraged to hear about the far places CEU graduates have reached and the exciting things they are involved in – in government, in science, in industry, in academia. 


We all have our stories: filled with colour, hardship, triumph and dynamism.  In humble reflection, I have been asked to come here and share with you mine.