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Modern History Sourcebook:
U Nu: Burma Looks Ahead, 1951


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.


Source:

U Nu, Burma Looks Ahead (Ministry of information, Government of the Union of Burma, 1953), pp. 28-39.


This text is part of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts for introductory level classes in modern European and World history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use of the Sourcebook.

© Paul Halsall, July 1998
halsall@murray.fordham.edu