We are in charge!
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam can look back on a fantastic Opening of the Academic Year (OAJ). The theme for the day was democratic leadership, under the motto: 'We are in charge!'
In her speech, President of the Executive Board Mirjam van Praag talked about the resilience of our democracy in this era of social media, advancing technology, populism and polarization, and what this requires from leaders in politics and government. On the role of VU Amsterdam in this, she said the following: ‘With all the challenges and disruptive changes that are coming down the line, I see a bright future for VU Amsterdam because of our emphasis on safety, connectedness and branching out. Our valuable and values-driven science and education will drive us forwards.’
The Brotherhood Brassband got the audience swinging.
Paul Rosenmöller, chair of the VO council and chair of GroenLinks in the Senate, looked back on his own development as a leader, concluding that there is no easy recipe for leadership. He divided his journey towards leadership into three periods. His time as a dockworker, as a politician and as chair of the VO council. ‘In my opinion, leadership has three essential ingredients: Vision, Connection and Trust’.
Diederick van der Wijk of Forward Incubator and Pieter Lossie, chair of LAKS, spoke about leadership in younger generations. Van Wijk used stories about the uprising in Syria and Kamal, a Syrian refugee, to demonstrate how he and his company are trying to help refugees towards better lives. Pieter Lossie believes that everyone deserves the same opportunities, regardless of where they come from and who they are. Using newspaper articles and a video clip, he showed how his own generation now faces worse prospects than previous generations. Inspired by his social studies teacher, this is what drives his own leadership and his struggle for equal opportunities for schoolchildren and students.
Our Writer in Residence, Arnon Grunberg, gave a reading of his column ‘Let us always remain critical’. ‘If myths come to be seen as facts, we are all in danger of becoming followers of bad regimes.’
To conclude, our Rector Magnificus, Vinod Subramaniam, welcomed the winners of the Spinoza Prize and Gravity Prize to the stage. All in all, a great start to what is sure to be an exciting academic year.
The Opening of the Academic Year marked the introduction of our theme for this year, Governance for Society, Governance for Society, which we will continuing to explore throughout the year.