THE TASK BEFORE US
Convocation Address by Prime Minister U Nu of Burma at the University of Rangoon,
December 22, 1951
Today I am to confer degrees to the candidates who have succeeded in the University
examination. But I want to do more than that. I want to confer a charge to all students,
not only to the students here assembled, but to all students all over Burma. This charge
is none other than to bring about in this country of ours a state of affairs which will no
longer be fluid and unstable like the surface of the sea but as firm as terra firma.
Before I expatiate on the magnitude of this charge let me go a little into the past
history of our Union of Burma. Then only you will realize-
(1) how badly dilapidated this Union of Burma is,
(2) why she is so dilapidated,
(3) and how much hard work lies ahead of us to build her up again.
The history of Burma from the beginning at Tagaung of Abhiraja to the end of Thibaw's
reign has been a history of kings and kingdoms. As you know, kings were not elected by the
people but derived their power from their own might and succession, so that, apart from
such great kings as Anawrahta, Bayinnaung, Alaungpaya and Mindonmin, most kings had very
little to do with the mass of the people.
They seldom bothered themselves about the five main pillars of Health, Education,
Morals, Economics and National Solidarity which must support a nation. It was the people
themselves who had to build and tend these pillars as far as they were able throughout the
course of history. Thus throughout the course of history these five pillars had never been
well and truly set up. After Thibaw, there were the British rulers. They too were not
elected by the people. They were here not to bother about the five pillars but to exploit
our country of rice, timber, oil and minerals. . . .
. . . Any country under the Imperialist regime, whether it be Burma, India or America,
is sure to have its moral pillars shaken and dilapidated. In such a state unrest and
disorders will be the order of the day.
Therefore, in order to bring about a change from the fluid and unstable state of
affairs to one which is firm and stable like terra firma, we have no other method
but to rebuild and renovate to our utmost capacity the five pillars which are in a sorry
state. Mere crying over this mess will not do. Mere clamouring to Government to restore
immediate peace will not do. Heaping blame on others and launching attacks on Government
in a spirit of desperado will not do. Longing for distant friends and beckoning them will
not solve our problems. Such measures, instead of improving matters, will make them worse.
In fact mere guns will not solve our problems. Stability wrought by guns is never
enduring. It will vanish once the guns are withdrawn. We do not want that type of
stability brought about by means of guns. We want that type of stability which will endure
whether there are guns or not, certain political organizations or not, certain leaders or
not. The nature of stability must be spontaneous and natural. Only then will it be safe
for everybody. To achieve this type of stability it is up to every one of us in the Union
to do our utmost to rebuild the sadly dilapidated five pillars which I have enumerated.
In this noble task of rebuilding the five pillars, you students with your brains and
your background will form the vanguard. . . .
To rebuild the pillar of Education, the country needs skilled technicians both in the
mechanical and handicraft spheres, skilled educationists, skilled scientists, learned
historians, men of letters and leaders of religions.
To rebuild the pillar of Economics, the country needs men and women skilled in Banking,
Foreign Exchange, External trade and technicians who have a thorough knowledge of modern
factories, administration, etc.
To rebuild the pillar of Morals, the country needs men and women who have made a
life-long study of various methods of moral uplift.
To rebuild the pillar of National Solidarity, the country needs able leaders who are
endowed with foresight, forbearance, public esteem and exemplary character.
Who are those architects worthy of being entrusted with the task of rebuilding these
pillars? It is certain that ignoramuses cannot be our architects. It is you, educated men
and women, who can play the role of the country's architects.
On behalf of the Government I have the privilege to lead, let me tell you that we are
not here like the British Imperialists to gain dividends. We are here just to serve the
people. Therefore if there is anything which is beneficial to the people and which is
capable of being done by the Government, please see the authorities concerned and frankly
exchange points of views. There is now absolutely no need for you to be rigidly formal and
stage threats and struggles, as in the days of the British regime. We are prepared to meet
you more than half-way if your proposal is beneficial to the country and is capable of
being done by the Government. I declare this both as Chancellor of this University and in
the capacity of Prime Minister. . . .
I know for certain that the vast majority of the students in this University are eager
to discharge their responsibilities with the sincere desire for the good of the masses,
free from political influences and political attachments. Let me address the leaders of
these sincere workers. The task of rebuilding the five pillars is riot small. Mere
attainment of independence will not make these pillars strong. Independence merely entails
opportunities for carrying out works for the good of the people. It is up to all of us to
carry out these works in our respective spheres to our utmost capacity. You must bear this
in mind. If you fail to take advantage of the opportunity thus offered and waste your
valuable time in fights and struggles and playing with insurrection, then the country will
go to the dogs. . . .
I pray that the students who have graduated this year may turn out to be worthy
architects of the five pillars I have just mentioned.