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The world is not burning: graduation speech by Lou-Elena Bouey

Student throwing mortarboards into the air
Student throwing mortarboards into the air
Graduation, 2019
Written by
Teleri Lloyd-Jones
Published date
19 July 2019

At this year's graduation, Lou-Elena Bouey – graduating from BA Architecture – made an evocative speech about the future that stretches before her and her fellow students. Here, we share her speech in full.

"Dear friends and fellow Central Saint Martins graduates,

It sometimes feels like the world is burning.

We were born into a place of chaotic turmoil. We grew up watching previous generations latch onto a system which relies on unsustainable economies, being taught that our needs for our planet's resources had entirely outgrown what it could produce. We witnessed the incessant fights for equality around the world, along with the continuation and beginning of seemingly infinite wars. All around us, people were catching onto a disease called fear, instigated by ignorance and shock at how out of control this so tightly regimented world of ours is.

We have had to build ourselves – our personalities, our relationships, our dreams and desires – in relation to a world that promotes individuality, and thus collectively lessens our chances at building a future with meaning.

But friends, graduates, in this chaos, each and every one of you here today made the bravest of choices by claiming the right to your voice – a sometimes unheard, controversial, unpopular voice, which made you different from all of those who had chosen to give in to the terrifying idea that it is what it is.

Your voice is a sound you had to fight for, against all odds, so that others would not see it as noise, but rather as a song to inspire and guide the ones around you.

It is not by chance that we are gathered here today. You made the choice to come here – many of us travelling from around the world, redefining ourselves around the pursuit of a space which would finally give us the platform and the tools to hone in that voice of ours. To everyone here who has contributed to our journey, we thank you.

Because for the past three years, I have come to the realisation that the world does not have to catch fire as long as there are people like you in it.

That the world is, in fact, not burning at all. Your work, your thoughts, your voices, are shining so loudly and brilliantly that all I can see is a future glimmering with hope, talent, and opportunities, carried by each and every one of you.

Dear friends and fellow Central Saint Martins graduates,

The world is, in fact, open. It's complex, challenging, and at times disheartening state is not one to be confused with a dead end. It is rather a mind-blowing network of trails, some discovered, some yet to be found, waiting for our paths to be drawn onto and our voices to be heard.

It is now our turn to decide which one we desire most to start from.

Thank you."