On May 16, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spent an hour engaging with the Association of American Universities. While the address was for AAU, the event was live-streamed to campuses across the U.S. for students, faculty, and staff to view. This was important as President Zelenskyy stated in his initial remarks that he was grateful for this opportunity and the honor of addressing the students and answering their questions. After President Zelenskyy's 10 minutes of opening statements, a Q&A session with the AAU Members followed.
President Zelenskyy's message was a call for students and other attendees to consider their role as events unfold around them. In these moments, they have a choice to observe or act. He emphasized the decision to act when help is needed rather than to stand by and observe. With many of the students' and attendees' questions, he brought it back to this point, and he thanked the U.S. for acting in support of Ukraine.
Several questions directed to the President addressed how we could support Ukraine now and into the future. Again and again, President Zelenskyy pressed for genuine involvement and taking the path of being active. He also asked U.S. higher education institutions, students, faculty, and administration to support Ukraine by reconstructing the education system's infrastructure by rebuilding the many schools recently destroyed and twinning with HEIs. He emphasized the support Ukraine would need beyond the physical rebuilding, which included expertise from faculty, development of the new curriculum, and collaboration on technological and scientific advancement.
The generous time the President gave to the AAU was noteworthy and wise. In his speech, Mr. Zelenskyy expressed that he was already looking to and planning for the future of Ukraine and recognized the support he would need to make that future vision possible. He astutely chose this audience of students, faculty, and high-level administrators for his address, recognizing that this was a group that can - and will - make change happen. President Zelenskyy recognized that the pressure to act would flow from the students to the highest level of administration and governance, from the President and top administration to the faculty and the student. Those tuning in were left excited and ready to mobilize by his call to action.
Watch President Zelenskyy's speech, or read a transcript of President Zelenskyy's remarks.