“I would like to thank the University of Parma for the honor it has granted me in this splendid setting”. These are the first words of the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella in Parma, in the Church of San Francesco del Prato, where he was awarded an honorary master’s degree in International and European Relations by the University of Parma. It was the beginning of a dense and passionate speech at the end of which the public expressed esteem and appreciation for the contents by standing up and paying a very long applause to the head of state.
The role of universities in Europe
“You have emphasized the themes of solidarity and I wish to pay tribute to this University which has important origins – continued the head of state – And my reflection goes precisely to the University which has an important responsibility in society. Social transformations are part of universities as we saw for example in 68. The history of universities is an integral part of our society. They represent conscience, custom, philosophy. Europe has the highest number of universities, not by chance and thinking about Europe without taking universities into account would not make sense ».
The ceremony in the Church of San Francesco
President Mattarella is therefore still in the Emilian capital after the inauguration of the celebrations on the occasion of Parma, the Italian capital of Culture 2020.
Quoted and closed to the public, the award ceremony saw the ministers of Education, Patrizio Bianchi, of the University and Research, Maria Cristina Messa, and of Labor, Andrea Orlando in the audience.
After the intervention of the rector, Paolo Andrei, the director of the Law Department Giovanni Francesco Basini read the motivation for the award, and Antonio D’Aloia, professor of Constitutional Law, gave the laudatio.
Finally, after the delivery of the touch and parchment, the floor was passed to the president Sergio Mattarella for his lectio doctoralis.
The public role of universities
“The history of universities – said the head of state – shows how deeply rooted, in the spirit of Europe, are the questions of autonomy and freedoms”. “Universities are foundations of the idea of Europe, engines of its future”.
«From corporations of teachers only, or of teachers and students, universities have gradually acquired a public role. They have been transformed from restricted bodies of civil law to open subjects of public law, bearers of values destined to become solid references. Their history also shows how deeply rooted, in the spirit of Europe, are the questions of autonomy and freedoms ».
Sergio Mattarella emphasized. “Meritocracy cannot be synonymous with a formula that legitimizes those who are already in a position of privilege, but rather that of those who aspire to get involved.”
Democracies and communion of intentions among peoples
And he went on. “An authentic democracy knows how to recognize that before any academic merit there is” a merit of living “, the result of the encounter with the reality of the facts and with the drive for emancipation from them – said the President of the Republic – Everyone faces one’s existence within a community of origin, sometimes modest and fragile, but must be able to choose to aspire to a community of intentions whose doors are opened by knowledge ».
The importance of science in the last two years
«It is good to treasure the lessons learned in these two difficult years – explained Mattarella -. We have been forced to face grief, suffering, heavy limitations, and the harsh crisis that has ensued still affects the economy and social balance. But we have understood, beyond any reasonable doubt, what value scientific knowledge, the professionalism of the operators, social cohesion, the common response that comes from the civic sense and the awareness of a shared destiny have.
And he quotes Mazzini: «Giuseppe Mazzini tells us” that the fatherland is the home of man, not of the slave “. The Patria Europe, with its universities, can also be the landing place for those who, who have arrived here or who come among us, want, through study and comparison with the masters, to escape the slavery that surrounds us ”.
Freedom and equality
Always looking at the principles of democracy and union among peoples: “Freedom and equality, democracy and solidarity are the pillars of this Europe, whose” founding vocations “, as Edgar Morin writes, – is Mattarella’s quote – are precisely cultural and political, understood in the sense of a continuous “planning, regenerating, revitalizing, developing and reincarnating democracy.” The President of the Republic pointed out in his speech. “Europe’s openness, wealth and the differences inherent in its humus are not – continues Morin – “a lack of rigor”, rather they represent today “the only possible rigor”.
“The Patria Europe, with its universities, can also be the landing place for those who, who have arrived here or who come among us, want, through study and comparison with the masters, to escape the slavery that surround us”. stressed the President of the Republic.
«We hope that Erasmus projects will soon resume at full capacity, indeed that they will be integrated with exchanges of research and work experience. Young Erasmus students – the Erasmus generations as it is now commonly said – have taken up an ancient and relevant university tradition. They have become protagonists of life experiences, as well as of study. Experiences that have made their awareness of being European citizens stronger. They have had proof of a shared ethos and have increased it in dialogue, in friendship, in common study »said Mattarella.
The importance of the restart plan
«In Italy, there is a great paradox: we are the nation that gave origin, strength and continuity to the idea of the university but our country is unfortunately in the queue for the number of graduates, for investments. Our university is not as attractive as it deserves. We could say: she is not loved as she should. It is up to us to use the resources of the restart plan to give greater strength to the universities and make them even more an essential resource for the development of the country ».
“May this restart plan be the backbone of a new, more solid and fairer integration of the Continent. This is a qualitative leap, capable of further strengthening the ties that already exist between the peoples and states of the Union. We must expect and contribute to profound innovations, on the methods of work and production, on the use of technologies, ensuring that the distribution of knowledge does not affect the effective exercise of citizens’ rights, with the risk of new inequalities ».