Dear Fellow People, Dear Guests!
Today we are celebrating a beautiful dream that has come true. One hundred and two years ago, members of the Council of Lithuania confirmed by their signature the birth of the independent Republic of Lithuania. They embodied the vision of Lithuania that had been resonating for long years in the hearts of our enlightened people and through the pages of Aušra – until the Great Seimas of Vilnius called on all patriots to get to work.
Namely, this historic event was made possible by the streamlined efforts of many prominent figures as they worked, year after year, to wake the nation and guide it to new life. Priest Juozas Tumas-Vaižgantas described the work and activities of the Vileišis brothers – well-known Lithuanian enlighteners – in the following manner: „Downpours do not refresh the earth. The earth is revitalized by continuous light rain with every drop falling directly on the soil”.
It took many raindrops to awaken the nation. As if rising from a long bad dream, the sons and daughters of Lithuania reconnected with the cultural heritage of their ancestors, rediscovered their national identity and brought the vision of freedom to maturity. They needed a lot of knowledge and wisdom as well as courage to make independence more than just a distant dream.
The architects of the Lithuanian state were united not only by their love of homeland, but also by their strong belief in the power of the printed word and science. A whole generation of young people who came from small villages and manors proved that there was nothing impossible for those with intense thirst for knowledge and passion to educate. The life path of many signatories of the Act of Independence started with secret Lithuanian schools, banned Lithuanian books and foreign university auditoriums. The education they received through hard work broadened their knowledge and deepened their love of Lithuania.
It is not by chance that today we speak of doctor Jonas Basanavičius – a relentless Lithuanian educator, publicist, popularizer of science and, first and foremost, our mentor – with a feeling of immense respect. The Patriarch of the Nation as one of his most significant accomplishments had the foundation of the Lithuanian Scientific Society dedicated to spreading the ideas of national revival. The Society, established after the Great Seimas of Vilnius, gathered together influential figures of deep intellectual insight, including the Vileišis brothers, Vaižgantas, Antanas Smetona, and many others.
It was only the enlightened and educated people driven by a common goal who could achieve a breakthrough in the case of Lithuanian independence and withstand the pressure of alien powers. Their valuable legacy helped Lithuania stand up to the challenges that followed and continue forward. Therefore, this February 16, I call on you not only to commemorate past historic achievements and pay tribute to the heroes who built the nation, but also to direct our thoughts and hearts to the future.
I believe that education can lift us up again, like one hundred years ago, making us dream big and act bigger. The future of our children will be shaped by the ability of the Lithuanian education system to adapt to the winds of the 21st century. The future prosperity of a free society is inseparable from the values and skills that we pass on to future generations. We cannot create a strong economy without educational and scientific advancement. We cannot generate fresh and original ideas without a strong and vibrant academic community.
We can no longer waste talents if we wish to build a brighter tomorrow for our nation. We must ensure education that is socially fair and accessible to all children of Lithuania, wherever they may live. We must focus on achieving the best possible progress across all areas – from pre-school to higher education – because this is the only way to bring up a new generation of free and independent nation builders.
Because the state is created not just for a fleeting moment, but for long centuries.
Because the building process never stops!
Because the architects of a state are educated, active and dynamic citizens with big hearts – let us never forget that!
Happy celebration to all of you!
Last updated 2020.02.16 13:26Back