Edward Snowden, in his role as rector of University – a post he was elected to last year – has delivered a videolink address to students during Freshers week. His speech, the full transcript of which follows below, reflects on the progress that has been made since his revelations began, the ability of individuals to make a profound difference in a changing world and expresses concerns about higher education laws proposed by the Scottish government.
Edward Snowden was elected as rector of Glasgow University in March this year and inaugurated on 23 April. This week, he gave the official welcome for incoming students at the 2014 Freshers’ Address by video link. In a short address that was enthusiastically received by its audience, Edward Snowden made it clear that he would be taking his duties as rector seriously, and would be more involved in student affairs then many expected when he was elected.
A video and transcript follows below.
Thank you, thank you very much. I’m really not used to this warm a welcome! In many places I’m not welcome at all.
First off, I’d like to congratulate you all and thank you for all of the support I have received from the university. I was elected largely to send a message and there was a great expectation that I would end up being a non-working rector.
But things have developed. Over the past year, we’ve learned a lot about the world, a lot about our governments, and it’s that key principle that times are changing, and they’re not changing on their own. They’re being changed because of the efforts of individuals around the world, and the efforts of individuals at this university.
What we discovered was that governments around the world had been watching us. They’ve been keeping us under surveillance. They’ve been monitoring what we read, what we do, what our affiliations are, who our friends are, what we’re interested in and, critically, what our areas of academic research are.
But the message that you’ve tried to send and that we’re all sending together is that now we’re watching the government. We as the public are taking our seat back. Just as I, as rector of this university, will do my best to make sure that all serious issues are brought to me. That I’ll work with the student representative council to understand and champion [these issues, which] will be brought to the highest levels of attention in the university administration. And I’ll do whatever I can to ensure your interests are served, no matter what.
Now, there’s only so much I can do without being physically present at the university, but I want to expand and improve upon that day by day, month by month, year by year. I’m working very hard to get the installation of new telepresence equipment that can be used not just by myself but by other members of the university community, ideally. To make sure we have a more open, integrated, diverse and communicative society at the university, a better community then we’ve had before. And we’re aware of what’s going on, not just in our own lives, but in the community’s lives.
So again I’d like to thank you all and I’d like to say that if you have any concerns, any questions, anything I can do to help, please make sure to bring it to me personally, please make sure to bring it to the student representative council.
And remember that, no matter what, no matter what the costs are, no matter what odds you face, everybody at this university, everybody in this room, everybody in this world has the opportunity to contribute to substantive and meaningful change. You can change the world by yourself, on your own, facing even the greatest and most intimidating, most powerful organisations with the greatest funding in the world. But more importantly, what one individual can do is nothing compared to what we can all do together.
So I encourage you to remember that, no matter what, there are always friends out there. there are always organisations that are able to amplify and magnify your impact. And remember the value of cooperation.
So thank you very much and welcome to Glasgow University
I’m disappointed and I must apologise for being unable to attend in person, but unfortunately I’ve discovered that I’m barred from entering the United Kingdom on the grounds that my presence is considered detrimental to the public good.
I do think it’s fair to say that the election shows the students of this university have a different opinion.