A speech from a PhD to fellow PhDs

The annual Doctoral Degree Awards Ceremony has just been ceremoniously arranged at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), in Trondheim. I got the great honor of giving the Fellow Speech to the 370 new Doctors of Philosophy (PhDs). This post is an excerpt of this speech. It is a call for PhDs—in any field—to use their hard-won knowledge to contribute to a better society.

NTNU Doctoral Degree Award Cermony 2014

Speech from a PhD to fellow PhDs, NTNU’s Doctoral Degree Awards Ceremony,  28.3.2014, by Torbjørn Netland, PhD

We are here. We made it.
We have progressed through the stages 
from PhD Student
to PhD Survivor.

We did not get here alone.
Today, we owe our supervisors a big thank you.
If your supervisors were as good as mine, 
it is remarkable to notice...
how so many of them, can read so little, 
and still — make us — achieve so much.

As individuals, we have learned more and more 
– about less and less.
Today we stand here, and know everything
- about nothing.
But together,
we make up a grand team of experts across various fields.
(...)
Where are we heading?
Wherever it might be, 
there are three important things we should all bring with us.

First, our voices are now stronger.
We can add the three letter abbreviation P. h. D. to our names.
It is a powerful title.
We are ambassadors of science.
– of knowledge.
– of truth.
In a world of accelerating change, that is extremely important.

Second, we should commit ourselves to use our voices.
We are people, not papers.
We stand on two feet, not between two covers.
Be out there. Talk to people.
Blog, debate, ask questions and suggest solutions.
We have the blessing — but also the responsibility —
to use our knowledge to contribute to a better society.

Finally, sometimes we must lend our voices 
to those who have weaker voices, or no voice at all.
Those who need to be heard.
Let us lend our voices to issues more important
than our PhD titles.
We are now to receive our diplomas.
We got it.
Let us go out there – celebrate 
and then earn it again.

A special thanks to my supervisor Professor Arild Aspelund for significantly inspiring the content of the speech. Also thanks to Professor Ola Strandhagen, Senior Researcher Johan Ravn and The Internet for inspirational ideas.

See more pictures from the 2014 PhD Awards Ceremony at NTNU’s Flickr page.

Leave a Reply