Speech of H.E. Abdullah Gül, 11th President of Republic of Turkey at the Graduation Ceremony of AGU for the year of 2021-2022

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Dear Governor,

Dear Deputy Mayor,

Respected Rectors of our University, our founding Rector İhsanSabuncuoğlu and our current Rector CengizYılmaz,

Dear faculty members, students and their precious families,

It is my great pleasure to attend the 5th year graduation ceremony of AGU together with some members of our board of trustees. I greet you all with love.

Unfortunately, we had a period full of diseases. We even performed graduation ceremonies here with masks. However, as the Rector also stated in his speech, we are glad that AGU was prepared to continue its education despite the pandemic. The university survived that period very successfully. There are periods in history when such epidemics occurred. The plague disease was one of them. So much so that millions of lives were lost. There have been deaths and significant losses that will reduce some countries' populations and affect the world population. Thankfully, we overcame Covid-19. However, when we look back, it is a fact that we still face many problems in the world. On one side, there is a war between our neighborsin our North.

On the other side, climate change, food shortages and hunger exacerbate its impact. In addition to these, it has been spending enormous expenses on armament. However, if the billions of dollars allocated to armament were spent on sustainable development, education, health and the well-being of humanity, the world would become very different.  Nevertheless, we are faced with such a reality. Even in such a pessimistic environment, there is one issue that no country can ever neglect: education.

I have mentioned it in almost every speech: Education is the best investment. If you want to invest in the future of a country, the priority is neither the roads nor any other sector because education comes first. The priority given to education means the priority given to the future of a country. Education given from kindergarten to university to raise qualified and skilled people is the most crucial investment for the future. Some countries have natural resources, but this does not mean much because they do not have a qualified population. On the other hand, there are countries with such a small scale with qualified, skilled and educated peoplewhose weight, influence and benefits are pretty high, both for humanity and the world.

With the richness of its human capital, Turkey is undoubtedly progressing rapidly on the path of educational investment. I believe that everyone is becoming more and more aware of this investment. But some alarm bells are also ringing. As you know, the university entrance exam results were announced yesterday. Education professionalsanalyzed the results. Unfortunately, we do not face a bright picture. On this occasion, I have to also say that,as Kayseri,we are pretty proud: It is a great success that two of our students, our children, came first in this exam while another one of them came second. These children achieved a degree in their field among nearly 3 million people who took the exam. On this occasion, I congratulate their families and teachers who raised them. However, when we look at the national average, the educators already have begun to write that the overall outcome was not bright.

There is another indicator. As you know, the success of education in OECD countries is measured by PISA (international student assessment program) tests. According to the PISA results, I am frankly worried when I see that Turkey is behind the averages of OECD countries and even far behind 37 countries. In the face of such a picture, politicians, planners, educators, all of us should be worried. Therefore, whatever we do, we need to give priority to education. This need also applies at the family level. We should do everything for the education of our children. I also have three children, and we have provided every opportunity for them to get an education in the best way possible. I have grandchildren. One of them is here with you today. Let's see how her education life will be shaped in the future.

Therefore, the top priority is education and training. This is accurate both for companies andthe states. We call this human capital. A country with a solid human capital overcomes its problems easily and finds solutions quickly. It makes its people happy, and its democracy and law develop stronger. Therefore, its economy remains strong. It has a reputation at home and abroad. Therefore, this is an issue that we should never neglect.

Considering all of these issues, we determined the purpose of the establishment of AGU. As you know, this is a public university. Although our Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Mustafa Çıkrıkçıoğlu, explains it, I realize that there is confusion. This is a state university. Erciyes University and AGU in Kayseri are state universities, while NuhNaciYazgan University is a private university. In addition to the opportunities offered by the state for our university, we have established a foundation so that the citizens of Kayseri, philanthropists and the private sector can also contribute, and AGU will be a better university. Our Chairman of the Board of Trustees also explained what this Foundation supports. In this context, our Foundation will continue supporting our students and faculty members.

Here I emphasize the following point again: Good education requires good teachers. This is accurate in kindergarten, primary school, high school, and university. Every effort must be made to train good teachers. We hand over our children to them. They shape the future. Therefore, it is the teachers who are responsible for everything. I will repeat what I always say: You study in hutswith good teachers and you will achieve great success. However, if there are no good teachers in a palace and no good lecturers, the children will only waste their years. Of course, we have facilities and campuses where education is given, and our governments have invested heavily in this. But there is also the interior of these structures. We have computer graduates among us, they know better. There is "hardware" consisting of pieces of iron, and " software " also constitutes the leading programs in them. Thousands of dollars are paid for the software. Therefore, it is necessary to prioritize the development and enrichment of the education contentafter the buildings.

I want to draw the attention of the Supreme Education Council (YÖK) to this issue; I am sure they are working on it because this is their field; we have entrusted our universities to them. Unfortunately, I see mediocrity in our universities. Thankfully, we brought universities to all our provinces, and our governments have succeeded in this. Now almost every city has a university. However, it is necessary to increase the number of good universities. There are universities everywhere in America and Europe, but there are outstanding universities among them, as their names have just been mentioned, and their number is precise. This should be encouraged in Turkey as well. It would be best if you never were afraid of it.

As you know, in a free market economy, companies, firms, and manufacturers compete correctly within the framework of the rules, and in this way, quality emerges, competition and motivation arise, and this race takes on those goals. With a similar understanding, it is necessary to do the same in academia. It is essential to pave the way for universities with capacity and to increase the number of good universities. This is important. As politicians and statesmen, we mention that there is still no Turkish university among the world's top 500, 300, or 200 universities, and we are saddened. That's why we need to change this quickly. I'm sure YÖK is examining the danger of mediocrity in the universities I have underlined. Their exhorting further focus on this will be the best achievement they will mark for the future of the Turkish universities. I hope they are looking into this issue too.

Since its establishment, efforts have been made to make AGU a good university in line with this awareness and thoughts, and a foundation was established for it. While listening to President Cengiz Bey a while ago, we were all proud and received detailed information about your achievements. However, this success must be sustainable and continuous. At this stage, the institutionalization of AGU has been realized. Our Founding Rector,İhsanBey, is among us, and he provided outstanding services to AGU during its establishment. Our new Rector, Cengiz Bey, is moving our university higher in the fastest and most rightful way, in cooperation with his friends, based on these foundations. I believe that this success will become much more visible in the coming years.

First, I must underline that an excellent English education is given at AGU. I hear this issue from the rectors of universities located in Istanbul, Ankara, university professors, and the business world. They mentioned AGU as one of the best language teaching universities. Otherwise, AGU would not have been one of the centers where the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test), the entrance exam to American universities, is held in Turkey. All American universities trust AGU, and you can take our university entrance exams. In addition, the TOEFL exam, in which the document proves that an individual knows English all over the world, can also be taken at AGU, and the said document can be given here. Therefore, our university has reached such a point.

Dear 2021-2022 Graduates,

First of all, congratulations to all of you. It is not easy. You obtainedan excellent education at this university. You entered by competing, you were patient, and you graduate from here. I believe you had good days here. Because the university is not just a place where you learn, the university campus offers an academic climate. By breathing this climate here, you have received a comprehensive education without realizing it. You are mixed with different ideas and thoughts in a place of pluralism. You have learned a lot from your teachers and friends in this context. You have become well-equipped with existing laboratory environments and research facilities.

Of course, education does not end there. Our ancestors said it very well, "from the cradle to the grave". You learned how to educate yourself from the cradle to the grave. You did not just get information; you learned how to learn, reach the education centers, libraries, and information centers of the world, and benefit; you learned and experienced all these under this roof. Therefore, my first advice is to know that your education is not over. Whether doing a master's or doctorate, continue your education to the end and follow all the local and international publications. Always keep yourself updated and act innovatively.

Then, of course, I have to say that everything starts with being a good person. RectorCengizBey gave sound advice in his speech; I will not repeat it exactly. However, to be an honest person, to be a reliable person, to be a good person, to your family, your environment, your country, and all humanity, you need to be aware of this. Frankly, leaving this attitude will not work even if you are the best academician in the world. Therefore you have to be a good person. A reasonable person must be knowledgeable and equipped; this is the most valuable asset. There is much to be said in this direction. But since this is the summary of the topic, I will not addit further. Again, congratulations to all of you.

Of course, your families are very proud to see your happy day. I share their happiness wholeheartedly. I'm sure our university professors are so glad too. They have graduated you; they are giving their 5th graduates. A teacher is always proud of the undergraduate and graduate students he has trained; this is their natural right.

Your future is bright; you're graduating from an excellent university. I know, I follow, and I get together with the board of your alumni association from time to time. Those of you who graduate find jobs right away. And it's not random stuff. They see good positions in foreign companies abroad in excellent companies in Turkey. If you encounter any obstacles while looking for a job right now due to world and country conditions you do not cause, don't let this situation discourage you. I believe that your future is bright, and you will all have a job in a short time. Prove yourself in these jobs so that you can reach higher positions. Your success will be the success of your family, country, and all of us.

Once again, congratulations to all of you. I heartily congratulate the lecturers for their effortsfor our graduates. I want to thank the valuable members of the AGUV Board of Trustees, philanthropists and businessmen for their valuable contributions. We meet with most of them in Istanbul and exchange ideas on what we can do for AGU and how we can develop our resources. Since everything depends on the source, this is our first agenda item. All of our priority is to make an excellent contribution to the Turkish education system as AGU by continuing its success and our student's education in the best way possible. On the other hand, AGU would feel incomplete without the valuable support of all the public administrators of our Kayseri, the Governor, our Mayors, and the Presidents of the Chambers of Industry and Commerce. In this regard, I thank all of them for their present contributions.

Dear graduates, I wish you all success in your future life.

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