Central European University is a unique place, a gem. It is fragile. What happens here is extremely difficult to do.  CEU takes people from damaged countries and helps them work for a better world. It encourages critical thinking, and seeks an honest engagement with history. It has no dominant nationality; students and faculty are drawn from over 100 countries.  They embrace change, but work to channel it in positive directions…

It is to the great credit of George Soros that he invests and cares about this, rather than just going for the high-octane, easier tasks of lining up stars from Princeton, Cambridge, LSE, Oxford, Shanghai and Singapore. People from these places came this week to help launch CEU’s new School of Public Policy and International Affairs, whose motto is “purpose beyond power.” These luminaries are doing something great in their own settings, but it is frankly less ambitious than what we are taking on at CEU. And no matter how brilliant they may be, the things they know are a shadow of what the CEU community knows and does.

I am seeing a Dalit woman and a Roma woman, both of whom came from utterly outcast families, growing up barefoot with no prospects, come to CEU and flourish, with inspiring contributions to make to the larger world as well as their own embattled communities. In order to build a university that takes advantage of their experiences and ideas, and equips them to contribute to society, there are people who are working around the clock, and on weekends, with every bit of genius and energy they can muster. These are people who could have had easier lives at other universities. I am talking about John Shattuck and Wolfgang Reinecke, Liviu Matei, Noemi Kakucs, Kinga Pal, Kati Horvath, Ildiko Moran, Janos the driver, Sybil Wyatt, Peter Almond, Stephen Fee. High and low, they give it absolutely everything, to the detriment sometimes of their own health and personal lives.

A film that captures some of these stories is in its final editing phase. It is complex, subtle, and wonderful. I look forward to sharing it soon with all of you.

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