Never giving up. Ever

Our countries need change, but we must make sure that we re-boot a country and not try to shut it down and restart afresh

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to present a keynote speech at the Leuphana University in Luneburg, a world famous German university in Lower Saxony, close to Hamburg. Every year, the orientation week at this university gives students a stimulating start to their studies.  This year was the first time that this orientation week was conducted entirely in English.

Malta, through several stakeholders, is currently in a consortium, with Leuphana University, which will be bidding for funds from the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. Accordingly, I thought that the 1,800 students deserved an overview of Malta through the ages. Stories make a difference, and we Maltese have a long history.

We believe in this history and we believe in diversity. One of the earliest inhabitants of Comino, Abraham Abulafia - the mystic who wrote the Kabbalah Abulafia - believed that Muslims, Jews and Christians could pray together. Different religions are like different fingers of the same hand, and Malta, having about 100 nationalities living on our islands, is living proof of the multiplicity of different cultures. Malta is an independent, small state of islanders with big dreams.

However, the theme of this year's freshman's week centred on creativity. We have to be creative and inventive. We need our universities, but we must make sure that university studies do not kill creativity. We have to change with tradition and innovation.

Our countries need change, but we must make sure that we re-boot a country and not try to shut it down and restart afresh. A country is much more complex than a computer. It cannot be shut down. The world has suffered badly whenever we had people who tried to shut down a country. In the 20th century, there were totalitarian leaders who tried changing society by destroying the old society and building a new one, and the world passed through terrible times as a consequence.

Here in Malta we have had to re-invent ourselves. We have changed to a modern society, and we now have tourism, financial services, e-gaming, a big pharmaceutical industry, electronics and education.

One should have big dreams, but flexible dreams. Change should be carried out by engineering it piecemeal, so that any mistakes are small and can be rectified. We must have inspiration and learn to accept both successes and failures. We should celebrate - and not just tolerate - diversity.

As Victor Frankl says, we shouldn't aim at success. Success cannot be pursued and must ensue. Success and happiness must happen. Let it happen. If we do not care about success it will follow us, precisely because we had forgotten to think about it.

Recently I met a young man of 25 who was involved in a serious traffic accident. He is now paralysed from the neck down. His body is broken, but his spirit is very strong. He now wants to study psychology, to help others, and he has accepted change and intends to use it for the benefit of others.

One of my favourite books is The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway. I have always recommended it and will continue to do so for its inspirational message and the perseverance of a man striving to achieve his dream - which he managed, even though sharks attacked his dream. He did not give up. We must never give up.

Evarist Bartolo is Minister for Education