Deputy Chief of Mission Grunder’s Remarks at the RIT-Kosovo Commencement Ceremony

Deputy Chief of Mission Grunder’s Remarks at the RIT-Kosovo Commencement Ceremony, May 22, 2023

Thank you, Dr. Shahrabi, and thank you to the Rochester Institute of Technology in Kosovo for inviting me to the university’s 2023 commencement ceremony.

Distinguished guests: RIT leadership, RIT Kosovo faculty and staff, proud friends, parents, and family members, and – above all – the graduates of the class of 2023:

It’s an honor to be here and to see so many happy faces gathered to celebrate this wonderful day.

The U.S. Embassy and RIT Kosovo enjoy a strong partnership.

Among the many things our two institutions have accomplished together,

We have improved information technology and cybersecurity skills for young people in Kosovo,

We have streamlined and modernized RIT-Kosovo’s curriculum development, and

And we have improved teaching and research quality through faculty support.

Across all facets of our partnership, what we value most is the high-quality, American education RIT Kosovo provides to its graduates – Kosovo’s future leaders.

Our partnership is but one example of the outstanding relationship between our two countries and underscores our mutual commitment to advance education, enhance cross-cultural understanding and improve academic achievement.

It is a privilege to address you, Class of 2023.

I am so pleased that you have been able to experience an American-style education, delivered to American standards, right here in your own country.

I’m confident too that you have brought your unique Kosovan culture and experience to this education – and developed outlooks and abilities that reflect your generation’s connectedness to the world and readiness for new adventures and opportunities.

We are gathered here at a pivotal moment.

In light of Russia’s brutal, ongoing war on Ukraine, we are seeing the biggest challenge to democracy and the global world order since the second World War.

With this in mind, I would like to take a moment to reflect with you on what an American education means in Kosovo, the youngest democracy in Europe.

A core value of American education is the notion that it should convey  not only the practical knowledge and facts of  any chosen field, but also the skill of thinking critically:

how to think for yourself.

How to ask the right questions.

How to use  your knowledge flexibly and with an open mind such that you can adapt to new circumstances.

These critical thinking skills will inform your onward career and life journey, helping you chart your path and be the narrator of your own story.

And you will need these skills, because the stakes are high for your generation – with huge problem sets and tremendous opportunities awaiting you.

In Kosovo, you are coming of age in a laboratory of democracy, at the beginning of your country’s history as a sovereign, independent nation.

When I think about that time for my country, the United States – 15 years after our declaration of independence, we were in a similar place.

Americans like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abigail Adams, and Alexander Hamilton were debating our future and working to build the very institutions which are now fundamental to our concept of ourselves and our country.

Lin Manuel Miranda, the famous writer of the Broadway play Hamilton: An American Musical, reminded students much like yourselves in 2016 that “The stories you are about to live are the ones you will be telling your children and grandchildren.”

Kosovo is a country in the making.

The actions that you will take – the careers that you are embarking upon – will have direct and immediate impacts on the future success of your country – no matter what sector or type of work you choose to pursue.

And you, class of 2023, have the opportunity and the privilege to build the country you want to see.

To write the stories that you want people to know about you – and about Kosovo.

In the words of Samantha Power, who visited Kosovo just a week ago in her role as Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development,

“Your job is to make sure that democracy matures, expands, deepens, and delivers.”

At the U.S. Embassy, we work every day toward supporting and partnering with Kosovo as it creates and deepens an inclusive, multiethnic democracy.  And we are deeply committed to and excited about this prospect.

We are working to ensure that Kosovo can take its rightful place in European, Euro-Atlantic, and international institutions.

It is you, Kosovo’s future business, government, academic, and civil society leaders, that will make this vision a reality.

We can only do our best to help support you along the way.

I have no doubt Kosovo’s future is bright with you in the lead.

How could it not be, with such an outstanding group of students?

At the Embassy, we have had the privilege of getting to know RIT student interns Era Haxhi-Jakupi and Yllka Kastrati.

Era is part of our Economic Growth Unit at the U.S. Agency for International Development, where she works on energy and cybersecurity issues.

And Yllka joined our Political and Economic Section, where she assists in tracking Kosovan political developments.

We are grateful for their insights and service.

And that is just two of you.  Truly, all of you have very bright futures ahead of you.  Your onward journeys and your positive impact on this country will be profound and meaningful and Kosovo will be stronger and better because of you are a part of it.

Congratulations, class of 2023!

And thank you for the opportunity to be with you on this special day.