Mudaliar, Sir Arcot Lakshmanaswami


I do not know to what fortuitous circumstances I owe this privilege of being called upon at this stage of the proceedings to address the Congregation on behalf of my colleagues and myself, who have been greatly honoured by you today. We are conscious of the fact that this honour is not one which we can claim on our own merits. We deem it rather as a significant measure of your goodwill and appreciation of the efforts made in the sphere of university education in our respective countries and indeed as a sign of your faith in this great organization of the Association of Commonwealth Universities.

Ever since the Commonwealth universities association stared functioning after the last Great War, it has been my privilege to have been associated with this organization and with its executive body. And gradually, as year after year the executive body has been meeting in different parts of the Commonwealth, it has been clearly realized that an association of this nature connotes much more than mere assembly of a large number of those working in the many fields of university education. To many if us it has been a great education in itself, to have met some of the most distinguished of contemporary educationists and to have had the opportunity of listening to their views on many subjects of moment in the present day world.

Let me therefore express, on behalf of the Commonwealth universities executive, our sincere feelings of grateful appreciation at the invitation extended by the University of Hong Kong and its distinguished Vice-Chancellor, which has enabled us to come over here and see the progress made in this rather remote seat of learning in the Commonwealth. I take pleasure in recounting that your great Vice-Chancellor is a member of the same profession to which I have the honour to belong and I speak in no spirit of parochial or narrow concepts when I say that a sprinkling of members of the medical profession among the Vice-Chancellors of the universities in the Commonwealth is indeed both advantageous and fruitful to universities in the largest sense of the term.

Today, the problems that face the universities in every part of the world and the many puzzling questions that confront the educationists are so vital and so numerous that it is indeed fortunate that under the auspices of the Commonwealth universities association we are privileged to meet occasionally members of the universities from the far flung corners of the Commonwealth, to discuss not merely the problems of universities, but those wider problems which have their bearing on those vital aspects with which the world itself is confronted. Never has their been a greater need than now, never have the problems loomed so large as now and never has a correct solution been more urgent than now to consider in a dispassionate manner, discarding all prejudices, preconceived notions, arbitrary modes of approach, the most vital of all questions, how the future generations can be trained to evolve a state of society, where the world will be a large family of nations imbued with one objective, one ideal, one hope and longing, that the welfare of every one of us and the welfare of all will be the concern of every one of us.

We have been familiar with the four freedoms that have been enunciated by a great American statesman. The fundamental freedoms guaranteed to humanity can be secured only if from the very beginning, proper training is given to the young child and if stress is laid on an aspect which concerns itself increasingly with the welfare of man in general, nay of all living beings. It is in the light of this sentiment that the preamble to the constitution of a great international organization, the UNESCO, begins with the significant statement, 'Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constituted'.

Events of the last few decades have made it abundantly clear that if nations are to thrive, if any progress is to be made in the world at large, it can only be through a proper concept of the means that ought to be adopted. The wave of totalitarianisms that has spread in some countries has only made that great gift of mankind, democracy, more worthwhile than ever; and it is in the conflict between these two ideologies that the world has been plunged into a great discussion as to what is the true purpose of education and what should be the means adopted to achieve that objective.

As one looks at this great island and sees how man has conquered and subjugated nature as it were, and chiseled out these magnificent buildings, where formerly barren rock and inhospitable mountain ranges were dominant, one realizes that the spirit of man does not quail under any physical difficulties. In these last few decades science and technology have made such phenomenal progress that we are apt to forget the great work of the pioneers who charted the seven seas and with that urge for discovering new things made many sacrifices, lived a life of untold privations, and faced many unforeseen dangers.

Among the many unforgettable figures of the past, I recall with gratitude one who did a great service not only to this island but to humanity in general; I refer to Sir Patrick Manson, who is rightly regarded as the father of tropical medicine. To him this island owes its school of medicine started in 1887 and indirectly of this very University, which started with the faculty of medicine as the premier faculty in 1911. To us of an older generation, Manson stood out as a great pioneer to whose genius we owe not a few of the later discoveries in the field of tropical medicine.

Let me offer our warm felicitations to you Mr. Vice-Chancellor and to your colleagues that this year you are celebrating the Golden Jubilee of your University. We are indeed fortunate that we have had the privilege of visiting your University in this jubilee year and this Congregation is the first of the series of great events that are due to take place during the golden jubilee year. We have no doubt that this University, which has lighted the flame of intellectual curiosity which has spread its light and luster in this part of the world, will ere long serve as a beacon light to guide the younger generation along the path or rectitude and service to humanity at large.

There is a famous and familiar saying of Lessing that if the Almighty offered him the choice between the knowledge of all truth, and the impulse to seek truth, he would reverently select the second as a greater boon than the first. And this is the attitude which is should be the end and aim of education to make easy and natural. To be open-minded, to struggle against preconceptions and hold them in due subjugation, to keep the avenue of the intelligence free and unblocked, to take pains that the scales of our judgement shall always be even and fair, to welcome new truths when they have proved their title, despite the havoc they may make of old and cherished beliefs - these may sound like common-place qualities well within everyone's reach, but experience shows that in practice they are the rarest of all!

Mr. Chancellor, an esteemed friend of mine who was well known in my country as a repository of knowledge of quaint customs and manners, told us that in some ancient continental universities, it was at one time the practice to present the medical graduates at the Convocation, with a ring, a barret, and an open and closed book. The ring was to remind him that henceforth he was wedded to his profession and should, for better or worse, continue the alliance once established. The barret or cap indicated his consecration as a priest of science. The open book symbolized the knowledge he had already acquired, and the closed volume was the significant emblem of that wider and up-to-date knowledge, which thenceforward should be the business and labour of his to constantly acquire.

And although at this ceremony we have not been presented with a ring, I venture to suggest that the gown which is our privilege to wear is but a reminder of the loyalty we owe to ancient ideals of university life; the academic cap is yet another reminder of our consecrating ourselves now and forever to the academic duties and responsibilities which it shall be our privilege and our endeavour to discharge; while the scroll and hood that you have presented us will serve to let us take note of this ancient reminder of that little we know and how much more we have yet to lean of the wider and up-to-date knowledge which it should be the business and labour of our life constantly to acquire.

Yes, Mr. Chancellor, it has been truly stated that:

Knowledge is proud that

He has learned so much;

But wisdom is humble

That he knows no more.

May I say, on behalf of the youngest graduates of your University, how much we feel honoured and beholden to you for reminding us of these great truths, and may I conclude by once more expressing on behalf of my colleagues and myself our sincere thanks for the honour you have conferred on us.