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Institutional breakfast for the 50th anniversary of INTEC

Perhaps my words before you on a morning like this should be simply protocol. I confess that I cannot and, perhaps, should not do so.

And it is that we convene here, today, on this campus that has cost so much to so many, the commemoration of the start of teaching of what was an act of daring and civic heroism of a group of demiurges -if I have chosen the term well- that gave birth to what is today this vibrant reality.

Celebrating 50 years of our INTEC might not seem like much if we compare it with the 934 of the University of Bologna, or with the 926 of Oxford, or with the 813 of Cambridge -which, paradoxically, the latter was founded by a group of academics who left Oxford dissatisfied and in disagreement with positions and decisions that they rejected in that predecessor, to invite a parallelism with events that served as a prolegomenon to the birth of INTEC.

Weighing INTEC better in its inequality with these comparisons, we must consider that its 50 years take place in a still adolescent country and are equivalent to somewhat less than a third of our republican life and almost exactly a third of our history from the feat of the Restoration.

Almost 10 centuries and Bologna, Oxford and Cambridge are still robust and productive. Half a century of INTEC on which I invite you to parody Shakespeare's expression, which "In a minute there are many days” and say now that “in some years there is a lot of time”. A long, long time, that has left us a legacy that inspires and moves us to the future, as the motto of this first fiftieth anniversary of INTEC.

Now the friend's story serves me Antonio da Novoa, honorary rector of the University of Lisbon, was Portugal's ambassador to UNESCO and presidential candidate in his country.

While still Rector of the University of Lisbon, in 2009, the Rector of the University of Cambridge, Alison Richard, sent Antonio a small box with sheets of paper and a special pencil and invited him to write a “letter to the future” that would be kept, along with several others, in a trunk to be sealed by the Queen of England, until a century later, when in 2109 the University of Cambridge will deliver it to the Rector of the University of Lisbon.

I share with Professor da Novoa the two reflections that this initiative aroused in him:

The first, the confidence that, in 100 years, universities will continue to exist, in his case those of Cambridge and Lisbon. In our case, the INTEC.

The second, the responsibility that it is necessary to speak to the future. And here I think of the formidable slogan adopted for the celebration of the VIII Centenary of the University of Salamanca, founded in 1218, «We said yesterday, we will say tomorrow». 

At INTEC we celebrate these first fifty years looking at the futurewithout forgetting what we said yesterday to connect with what we will say tomorrow.

Founded to contribute to the social transformation of the country, through higher education and the development of science, technology and culture, let me finish with some brief reflections on INTEC and our country.

I believe that every country, at all times, faces problems that we could classify as intrinsic or endogenous and others as extrinsic or exogenous. The latter happen to us, they come to us from outside, so to speak, difficult to resolve, to bring under control and even to mitigate. The former belong to us to such an extent that we largely create them ourselves, we can and must solve them, and we have no excuse not to do so. 

It is to these endogenous or intrinsic problems that I want to be allowed to refer and do so in relation to what INTEC has been, is and should be.

The first of them is the institutionality, institutionality as a culture, as a norm of life and associativity, rather than as a juridical or legal norm or as a structural order. I am referring to the rules and belief systems and behavior guidelines that prevail in a society, accepted as legitimate, valid and thus, with material force, binding and with pertinent effects. It is here that the foundation of civilized social life lies. With civilized institutions we stick mainly to mutual respect in the recognition of rights and duties, with the golden rule that the rights of one have the limit of respect for the rights of others. how to proclaim Benito Juárez, who are "respect for the rights of others is the paz”, to which I would add, is institutionality. When institutionality is shared culture, what Plato told us is valid: «where the love reigns, laws left over».

The second among these endogenous problems is that of social cohesion and solidarity. Social cohesion refers to the processes of inclusion and exclusion in an organization or society, with inclusion as a centripetal force that attracts and unites, and exclusion as a centrifugal force that distances and separates. The greater the inclusion, the greater the cohesion, while the exclusion reduces or eliminates it. The levels of inequality enhance the centrifugal forces, the higher, the less cohesion.

Being pure and simple equality utopian, inclusive practices of mutual respect and fair treatment, recognition of others as legitimate others and subjection by all to the same norms of cultural and legal institutions are extremely important. Otherwise, coexistence and social cohesion are undermined by inequality. As I see it, inequality is difference in fact, while inequity is difference in purpose.

To fair treatment we add solidarity, with which we favor social cohesion, because above any inequality, we value the human dignity of all regardless of differences in status or any other type. And we extend a helping hand precisely to those who are disadvantaged in one way or another, for one reason or another.

With fair treatment we suture the gaps of inequalities, with solidarity we mitigate inequalities. And so we maintain a social and citizen bond of reciprocity and solidarity, recognizing ourselves as part of the same social fabric.

The third and last problem on my list is that of shared purposes.

When there is institutionality, social cohesion and solidarity, we have the bases to establish and pursue shared purposes. And that is when a group or an entire society reaches the highest levels of social structure, not simply those of a conglomerate or crowd, but those of organization. Organization, that superior form of associativity that, as conceptualized Arthur Stinchcombe, one of the fathers of organizational sociology, consists of «a set of stable social relationships created deliberately, with the explicit intention of continually achieving some specific goal or purpose». And it is by sharing purposes or goals that we unleash the forces that lead to progress, development and well-being.

As we can see, institutions such as culture, social cohesion and solidarity, and shared purposes are interwoven, reinforcing or weakening each other.

And what does all this have to do with INTEC, with its legacy and its future?

I have two supporting arguments for having brought this that without them it would be nothing more than a rant.

The first argument refers to INTEC, due to its design, its trajectory and its aspirations as an island of institutionality, in a society that is struggling to reach higher levels of it and feels threats of slipping into anomie, in which for so many the Rules and guidelines for behavior are for others to follow and to suit their individual whims. And we see that from our daily behavior in transit, in the queues, in the treatment given to others, in the invocation of the “you don't know who i am” and the claim of undeserved and unfounded privileges, to mention just a few examples, bad examples to be precise. 

At INTEC we said yesterday and we will say tomorrow that its institutionality, as a culture, not only as a regulatory framework, distinguishes and highlights us and this is something that we must value, maintain, cultivate and deepen, like the most delicate flower in our university garden.

Based on this institutionality, let us celebrate the social cohesion and solidarity that we have achieved and that we must preserve and increase, so that INTEC is a community of all, in which above any socio-economic, cultural, of gender, age or ideological preference, we integrate with a vocation for equality and solidarity.

We want to be an elite, yes, without hesitation or modesty. But an intellectual and academic elite, based on that type of merit and the requirement of effort and dedication, which is otherwise inclusive, with no other exclusion criteria at our entrance door and our permanence regime.

And in this we contrast with a society in which arguments of ancestry, hierarchy, power, connections, the invocation of alleged non-legitimate acquired rights, and then segregating on spurious grounds, affirming a perverse separation that fosters abysses between own franchises and others, illegitimately unknown instead of legitimately recognized. 

And here are a few words about shared purposes. In a society in which we atomize ourselves so much based on particular interests without rising to purposes and goals of deep and real consensus, in which we sign pacts to ignore them or simply, purely and simply forget them and in which it is so difficult for us to focus and commit ourselves In the long term, abandoning ourselves to the ups and downs of the short term and immediacy, at INTEC, as if it were a bubble, it has been different.

The constancy and unification of the purposes, the persistence in the pursuit of excellence, throughout its fifty years, going through 9 rectoral periods, with the reaffirmation and improvement of our institutionality, the continuous cultivation of cohesion and solidarity in our community, constitute a pact that we do not abrogate and that has given us and will give us a continuity without sacrifice of continuous improvement, innovation and recalibration of responses according to the demands of changing times.

It is for all of the above that it is largely justified that we recognize ourselves as a hive.

The second argument implies INTEC as an agora of higher education. We close to specify, and why higher? Because topographically it is at the end and above the other educational levels? Of course not, if it is superior, if it becomes superior, it is because it is a place for the cultivation of the spirit, of virtue, of the four platonic ethical virtues: justice, wisdom, strength and temperance, in the seek the earring, greek for excellence, excellence not only professional, but, first of all, citizen.

For this reason, and especially for this reason, it is possible to describe it as superior to this educational level. And it is essential with this that we can form and serve for the social transformation of the country for the benefit of a better quality of life for all without discrimination, as is our mission.

I hope I haven't bored you this morning and I apologize if I have. In a few minutes we will have the wonderful moment of listening to our students with their manifesto on the occasion of INTEC's 50th anniversary.  

I thought that I should address them perhaps as a grandfather who connects past with present by foreseeing the future.

I thought that at such an important moment I should follow the recommendation of Clark Kerr, the almost mythological first president of the University of California at Berkeley and twelfth of the California university system, who postulated that (I quote) «The rector becomes the central mediator between the values ​​of the past, the perspectives of the future and the realities of the present».

Let's celebrate our first 50 years as a legacy that inspires and moves us into the future. And, in doing so, let us remember these five decades with that phrase of Abraham Lincoln: «And in the end, it's not the years of your life that count. It's life in your years». 

Thank you very much