Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met last week with members of the Association of American Universities. He gave an overview of Ukraine’s position on the war waged by Russia and answered questions about Ukraine’s interest in future partnerships with American colleges and universities. The address was also streamed live to students at the AAU institution.
Zelensky dedicated his speech to students who were watching. He said all students face some key decisions: “Are you an actor or just an observer? Are you trying to change something? These are life-changing decisions that shape students’ character,” he said.
He talks about how students face hate, they will film the incidents on their phones and post the video on Instagram or YouTube. But to really change the hate, in some situations, he asks if the students who recorded the hate actually stopped doing hateful things.
In Ukraine, he said, students and others have decided to “become actors.”
University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick D. Gallagher asked what American universities could do to support students in Ukraine.
“It’s not easy to maintain education in our state now,” Zelensky said “We are intelligent people,” and that means students want to be educated. He said that during the epidemic, a lot has been done in the field of online education and some of its work continues.
But the central problem, he said, was that “many young people … wanted to defend their country.”
Christina M. Johnson, president of Ohio State University, asked how American universities could help Ukrainian universities recover from the war.
Zelensky said such help would be “a stimulus to life.”
He stressed that universities should set up programs so that they provide skills, not just cash.
Zelensky further stressed that it was “important for students and researchers to return to Ukraine” after the war.
He stressed that in some parts of the country, “life is coming back fast.” “People are coming back to universities,” he said. In the end, “I think everything will be fine.”
Peter Salov, president of Yale University, asked what he expected from students in the vicinity, not only Ukrainian students but also students from Poland, the Baltic states and even Russia.
Zelensky said it was a “very difficult” question.
“I understand that we should not discriminate,” he said, referring to where people came from. And he noted that many Russians have left the country in protest of the war. He added, however, that he hoped Russian students would speak out against the attack. They should “say so,” he said.