Her Excellency Hilda C. Heine, the President of the Republic of Marshall Islands being installed as the 26th Chancellor of USP by Mr Winston Thompson, Pro-Chancellor and Chair of Council.
Her Excellency Hilda C. Heine, the President of the Republic of Marshall Islands was installed as the 26th Chancellor of The University of the South Pacific (USP) at the second graduation ceremony of the year on 19 September 2019 at the FMF Gymnasium.
The installation was done by Mr Winston Thompson, Pro-Chancellor and Chair of USP Council.
In his remarks, Mr Thompson said this graduation ceremony was a special one because of the installation of the University’s 26th Chancellor, H.E Hilda C. Heine, the President of the Republic of Marshall Islands.
He said this is a historic moment for the University as she is the first female Chancellor of the USP.
H.E Heine has been appointed to serve in the role from 1 July 2019 for a term of one year. The Chancellor is the titular head of USP, who confers the qualifications of the University.
President Heine succeeds the outgoing Chancellor, His Excellency Taneti Maamau, the President of the Republic of Kiribati.
In her graduation speech, H.E Heine acknowledged Mr. Winston Thompson, the Pro-Chancellor and Chair of Council of USP; Professor Pal Ahluwalia, Vice Chancellor and President; Honorable Ministers and Senior Officials of the Fijian Government; Excellences and Members of the Diplomatic Corps; Heads of Regional and International Organisations; Members of Council, Senate and their Committees; Members of the USP Senior Management Team; Graduands, their families and friends and; Members of staff and students.
The audience observed a moment of silence in honour of the passing of two great Pacific leaders: the Prime Minister of Tonga, HE Akilisi Pohiva, who would be laid to rest in Tonga today; and former President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Irojlaplap HE Imata Kabua, who passed away in Honolulu, Hawaii yesterday.
H.E Heine noted that it was her pleasure to commence her short term of service as Chancellor of the USP.
“I am very conscious that I am following in the footsteps of many distinguished leaders from 12-member countries of USP, including the first Chancellor from the Marshall Islands, Iroojlaplap Amata Kabua,” she said.
She said that as a national leader, she had a unique sense of belonging when she realised that she is a stakeholder, a co- owner, in this great enterprise, in this great partnership.
“USP - envisioned by the leaders of our region, patiently fostered and nurtured by successive Pacific Island governments, and converted by USP leadership and dedicated professionals from a mere idea to a constructive and living institution that we have today,” she said.
“All this, was done and executed in the face of indescribable setbacks: little money, challenges in geographical and logistics, incredible cultural diversities and language, incomparable differences in natural resource endowment, and different colonial and political experiences,” she added.
H.E Heine said she believed, “the secret to our collective strength lies in our sheer ability to continue to build and strengthen our own respective countries, while recognising when to subordinate our needs as individual partners to the over-arching interest of the common-weal. Some people have called this Pacific Solidarity”.
She believed this is the underlying magic if one should ever want to systematically cultivate a truly Pacific perspective, our Pacific way of knowing, our point of reference, even a strong ship must have a mooring.
“Whether the subject matter is a research programme, technology, academic pursuits, or challenges of climate change. They all must spring from, and converge on, a common need, a common purpose. The question is: how do we creatively and constructively translate our differences and diversities, our latent talents and limited resources, into strength,” she stated.
This she said, is when USP comes in; with their creativity and constructive analytical powers.
“I am grateful that USP had, so far, escaped the usual criticism that universities are monolithic institutions, forever buried and entrenched in their own academic pursuits and research, incapable of changing, incapable of taking its gift of knowledge to the community. May you never take that route,” she said.
She assured that the region is proud of USP’s accomplishments.
“However, your proven record allows you little time to rest on your oars, now or in the future. They say that if you want things done, take them to the one who is the busiest,” she added.
USP she said, is called upon to seek viable and effective solutions to climate change, and to do so with unrestrained speed, for the clock is ticking for the critically vulnerable ones among us.
She commended USP for the quality and relevance of its research programme - at the cutting edge of climate change adaptation and mitigation and further challenged it to consider the establishment of an Atoll Centre of Excellence that would catalyse research, policy and strategies to safeguard the front line vulnerable countries.
She mentioned that the Atoll Centre of Excellence is important because what happens to Atoll countries will certainly happen to bigger island nations. She confirmed that the RMI USP Centre would be pleased to host such a Centre.
H.E Heine urged USP to use every means in their intellectual powers to bombard ceaselessly every door to the world community, and remind the polluters of their moral duty to safeguard the vulnerables.
“Point out to them from your research, irrefutable proofs of the multifaceted threats that envelope us: from the loss of land to the very existence of our culture and way of life. Of the increase in oceanic temperature which causes tuna migration, of the damage to our soil from increased salinity, of increase in complexity in lifestyle diseases, of the shifting in crop patterns,” she emphasised.
Finally H.E Heine offered her heartiest congratulations to the graduands for their achievements and reminded them that their awards will mean nothing if they forget who they are.
“It will have no meaning if you ever forget that you have come from the bosom of caring and loving families. That you have been reared in the midst of communities that fed you with a strong dose of cultural values, and traditions concerned with the livelihood and the prosperity of your neighbor,” she said.
“Be humble and grateful in your accomplishment. Boast of your academic achievements if you must, but serve your families, your community, your country and the region,” she advised.
The Chancellor of the University is appointed from USP’s 12 member countries in alphabetical rotation.
Please click here for Her Excellency Hilda C. Heine' full speech.
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