MA GRADUTAION 2016
The possession of a Master of Arts degree conferred by the university of Cambridge, carries both rights and responsibilities. Most, no doubt, will look forward to claiming your newly regained right to borrow books from the University Library. But possession of the MA also grants you membership of the University Senate, which means that you can participate in the university’s decision-making process, AND it gives you the right to vote in elections… for the chancellor or high steward.
It is perhaps, fortuitous that you return to Cambridge to graduate as a Master of the Arts, on the eve of the most significant democratic event of your generation. The event will, have an enormous bearing upon the future of our well being, and will be watched eagerly by every nation in Europe. I refer, of course, to the Eurovision Song Contest. This year, we are warned, is our best chance in a generation of winning Eurovision because other European nations fear Britain will retaliate to a Eurovision loss, at a forthcoming vote next month. As if the British public would not take a vote seriously: we even take the naming of a boat with democratic seriousness.
Not surprisingly, many political commentators forecast a radically different way of engaging in politics in the coming generation. Although even for that, Robinson has prepared you well: the shock victories of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour Party and Donald Trump in the Republican party were, of course, preceded in your time at Robinson by the shock nomination of Jimmy Campbell to the RCSA presidency.
The reading we had from Paul’s letter to the Romans, is written to encourage Christians living in the capital of the empire, not simply to enjoy their privileged status (as the people of God) but to use their status to be fully engaged in the running of the world: socially, politically, morally engaged in the communities that have shaped them, and the communities where they live.
Whatever else this day signifies, it is at least, both a recognition and a celebration of all the hard work you have done since your own exploits at Cambridge! And a reminder of the privilege you enjoy. A call to use the gifts fostered and nurtured here to benefit the world at large.
Having now waded through some of the grittiness of life outside the red bricks of this establishment, people no doubt, have discovered that there are worse things in life than being bumped only 20 seconds after the canon sounds, being turfed out of your bed after a 5am fire alarm or being seen in your pyjamas - or lack of pyjamas – as a result.
There may even be greater evils in the world, than being late for a supervision, being caught in the midst of an alcohol-fuelled attempt to climb over a railing, or selling your soul at a Christian Union event simply because they offered free food.
We celebrate today, because those who have graduated from Robinson are – and always will be – ambassadors, in a sense, representatives of what it means to be educated in this place.
That, we would hope, is what the Cambridge MA signifies: that the confidence that many people learn here, academically, socially, personally – is a confidence to use the gifts fostered here to engage with the world around us in ways that are fruitful and life-affirming.
Today is a celebration, and a commitment to embody in the world at large, the openness, the confidence, the readiness to engage with otherness that Cambridge as a whole, and that Robinson in particular seeks to encourage.