Oppenheim University of Malaya address

In 1961 Alexander Oppenheim addressed students graduating from the University of Malaya. His full address is contained in Address delivered by the Vice-Chancellor Sir Alexander Oppenheim K.B., O.B.E., M.A., Ph.D., D.Sc., F.R.S.E., The University of Malaya Gazette 2 (3) (1961), 9-10. Below we give some extracts from his address:

The world today is too small, too closely knit by the marvels of technological advances based on the fundamental scientific discoveries of recent years, to afford doubts and indecisions where peace is concerned. Nation must speak to nation not in terms of threats and counter-threats but in terms of understanding and friendship and in this task of reaching understanding Universities ... must play a leading part.

A part which can be well played, particularly in this area for we have magnificent resources in men, in women, in ideas and in our access to the great civilisations of the world. Here a nation is arising from Malays, from Chinese, from Indians, from Europeans and from Eurasians: all that the great men of Islam, if India, of China, of Europe have ever accomplished or dreamed of in their acts, in their sayings and in their poetry - all that is at our command if we choose and I think this nation is wise enough and strong enough to choose - to take it, to use it and re-interpret it afresh for the needs of the world today.

In this University we study not merely sciences and technologies, we study also the great civilisations, their arts, their literatures, their histories and their philosophies: Malay Studies, Indian Studies, Chinese Studies and European Studies. Each will give to each and thereby becomes stronger. But above all we must study man himself in all his changing moods and changing environments. For unless we master ourselves in relation to others the road leads clearly in these days of rapid changes to dictatorship and destruction.

For today Universities are not for a chosen few chosen mainly by birth or wealth and an even smaller fraction who have achieved University education by gigantic competitive efforts; today Universities are for the many: for all those who desire to have further education provided only that such do mean to work and to strive. Nothing worthwhile comes without sweat and toil. There is no place - the nations cannot afford to give a place - in a University for those who wish simply to enjoy a few years of leisured ease. But the sweat and toil are lightened by the joys and delights of discovery the illumination which comes from discovering a new harmony whether it be in Physics or in History or Poetry or in Mathematics.

Last Updated March 2011