Toespraak van Koning Willem-Alexander ter gelegenheid van de officiële opening van de nieuwe Campus van United World Colleges in Maastricht

11 oktober 2013

De toespraak is uitgesproken in het Engels.

Students, honoured guests, friends of United World Colleges,

First, I would like to congratulate you on this magnificent new campus. The newest branch to sprout from the UWC family tree. It is a great asset to the city of Maastricht.The first impression is really marvellous.

'The UWC Xperience'.
That is the theme of this opening ceremony.

And it takes me back to my own UWC experience, thirty years ago, when I was a student at Atlantic College, in Wales. The very first United World College. Located in atwelfth-century castle with thick grey walls, it even hadits own ghost. She went by the name of 'Lady Anne'. I never had the pleasure of actually meeting her, but shecertainly contributed to the atmosphere of the place.

My fondest memories are of the many friends I made during my two years at United World College. There were students from 65 different countries. They came from Denmark, Spain, Peru and Kenya. From Hungary and Poland, then still behind the iron curtain. And many morecountries, too. Our backgrounds were totally different. But we were united in our commitment to each other. And we all wanted to grasp this opportunity to broaden our horizons.

I expect today's students will recognise that feeling. You have come to Maastricht from all corners of the world,each with your own cultural identity, your own individual talents, hopes and dreams. UWC is not 'one size fits all'.
It is not about promoting uniformity. It is about celebrating diversity and seizing the chance to be inspired by others.

The founding father of the UWC education movement - Kurt Hahn - strongly believed in the potential and openness of young people. He wanted to make education a force to unite nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.

Personal responsibility. Integrity. Compassion. Service to society. Mutual understanding.

These are the values promoted at this campus and at its sister colleges on five continents. From Singapore to Swaziland, from India to Italy and from Canada to Costa Rica.

You may think this all sounds a bit lofty. Perhaps I should be careful, talking about such noble values.
Because if you think all we did at Atlantic College in the 1980s was discuss world peace, international understanding and respect for the environment, I am afraid I have to disappoint you. We simply didn't have the time! We were too busy studying for our final exams,which were really tough in my day. As I'm sure they are today.

And yet… I know that the UWC principles have had a lasting impact on my own development. I hope that youtoo will experience that in the future, when you are making a life of your own.

Kurt Hahn wanted to build bridges between generations. I think this made him a visionary. In our ever changing world, the generation gap seems to be growing wider and wider. Sometimes it can be difficult to really understand each other. To really put oneself in somebody else's shoes.
That is why we need to provide young people - people like you - with the best possible education. Excellence and empathy are the cornerstones of successful schooling. UWC Maastricht is promoting both. That is why I am proud to have had the privilege to serve as patron of the UWC organisation in the Netherlands.

We live in an increasingly interconnected world. A world in which armed conflicts dominate the news. These conflicts cause human suffering beyond imagination. Many of them are caused by lack of mutual trust and understanding.

It seems to me that there is every reason to embrace the values promoted at this College. To continue conveying a spirit of mutual understanding to young people, to help them overcome prejudice through living and learning together.

So I would like to say to every student: remember, what matters is not where you come from, but where you want to go to.

It is not your social or economic background that definesyou, but your personal motivation and your outlook on life.

Don't be afraid to put your convictions to the test. Develop your personality, your skills and your talents. And have the courage to play your part in improving the world.

But perhaps most important of all: enjoy your time here in Maastricht. And experience the adventure that is UWC!

Thank you.