ITI Rector Spoke at the Ugandan National Prayer Breakfast

On 8 October 2022, ITI President and Rector Dr. Christiaan Alting von Geusau addressed the Ugandan State Leaders in Entebbe. On the day before Uganda’s Sixtieth Independence Day, the President of the Republic Mr. Yoweni Kguta Museveni Tibuhaburwa, the First Lady,Mrs. Janet Museveni (who also currently holds the office of Minister for Education and Sports), together with the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice, the Speaker, and the members of Parliament gathered at the Ugandan National Prayer Breakfast to thank God for their country and to entrust it, its people, and its leaders to His protection. Among the participants of this event were also parliamentarians from many other African countries: Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda. Nigeria, and Congo.

Throughout his address under the title Arise and Build: Virtue Education as the Cornerstone of Society, Dr. Geusau turned to the example of Nehemiah, the Old Testament figure who served as governor of Persian Judea. Nehemiah not only rebuilt the physical walls of Jerusalem, but—even more importantly—rebuilt the faith of his people and restored their Covenant with God. The life and deeds of Nehemiah show that it is due to his virtuous leadership that the restoration of Jerusalem was possible.

In today’s world, says the Rector, every country is in need of Nehemiah’s restoration work. The world is in need of virtuous leaders who will build and lead their countries and societies and, most importantly, who will educate the youth and prepare them for taking over these responsibilities in the future.   

Dr. Geusau began his address with a reflection on what the virtues are. It all starts here, he said: in our hearts, in our lives, in our personal decisions and attitudes, in our faith. Virtues are moral habits that enable us to do good even and especially in times of great difficulty. Virtues allow us to attain the further potentialities of our human nature. They enhance our capacity to act rightly and justly at all times. We cultivate virtues first and foremost to become better people, to reach the excellence of our being. Virtues are thus tools of life. They are the attitude of excellence and act as an unfailing moral compass, and they sustain and feed our conscience, which is so important in leadership. Dr. Geusau stressed that each of us is called to live a virtuous life like the virtuous layman Nehemiah. He was able to lead his people because he chose to pursue the virtues. He lived and acted always in accordance with his conscience.

Dr. Geusau then further developed his thought on the connection between virtues and education. Virtues and education go together, he pointed out. They can and will change the course of a nation, because that is what they do. When we not only educate our young people well, but also educate them to live a virtuous life, we teach them to be magnanimous. Magnanimity is the quest of a spirit for great things. It is the habit that seeks to serve a purpose that is larger than oneself. It also requires humility, that is, to know the truth about oneself and one’s place. Education in virtue must hold an important place in our lives. Nehemiah could only rebuild Jerusalem because he paid so much attention to the cornerstones of the new walls. He brought the people back to the Covenant, which in today’s setting we can call the catalog of virtues. If we truly want to restore our nations we need to begin by instilling virtues in our young people, first by our own example and then through the educational efforts we undertake: schools, universities, and especially the family. This is what society is built on. There is also another aspect, namely, where these virtues are built up: that is, in solid institutions. As we have seen throughout history when counties go through crises, whether they come stronger or weaker often depends on whether these countries had solid institutions rooted in civil society that represented its virtues and values. If a state respects and encourages institutions such as churches, schools, and local structures where young people can be educated in the virtues and traditions of their country, it will also be better able to cope when crises occur, whether such crises be political, economic or of another kind.

The last point of Dr. Geusau’s address pertained to the theme of virtues and leadership. He underlined that history has brought forth numerous exemplary leaders who have inspired others more by who they were rather than what they did. This is a common characteristic of such leaders, whether they were leading in the religious, the political or some other sphere. Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Mahatma Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela did great things, but it was ultimately the language of their being, who they were, and what they stood for that inspired and motivated millions. Nehemiah devoted so much effort to not only building the walls and gates but also turning his people back to God and His Covenant with them. Nehemiah publicly exposed how the people had sinned against God and called them back to faithful adherence to the Covenant, to a virtuous life—and he did that through his words, his deeds, and above all through his lived experience.

In his concluding words, Dr. Geusau encouraged all those present to follow the example of Nehemiah. As Nehemiah fulfilled the purpose of his life, so can we also: we can restore and strengthen our families, our communities, and our nations by living the virtues, focusing our educational endeavors on teaching those virtues, firmly rooting our leadership in the daily pursuit of those virtues, and staying faithful to our identity.