Your Excellencies, AUB Faculty and Staff, parents, families, friends and especially my fellow graduates in the class of 2009:
Today, June 27th 2009, at least for most of us, our academic journey at AUB has come to an end. As we are sitting waiting to receive our diplomas, memories flash back into our minds: of good friends we have made, of many overnights we have spent studying till the last minute, of assignment deadlines we have barely met, of dropped courses, of the stress during registration period, of the vibrant elections period and Dean Kisirwani’s continuous efforts to restore order, of the successes we have enjoyed and the failures we have learned from.
All these memories prove that AUB is not only a source of knowledge but also a life changing experience in its own right. AUB has contributed to what we are today. It constantly reminds us that, as Robert Frost once said, "Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence." Today, most of us are wondering: did we make the best out of our days in AUB?
Our great excitement on this day cannot conceal our concerns related to the challenges we face as the class of 2009. The main challenge remains in finding jobs that would satisfy our career aspirations and this is made more difficult for our class by the ongoing economic global crisis. The International Labor Organization suggests that unemployment in the Middle East may increase by 1.6 million in 2009. Additionally, we expect an inflow of many Lebanese living abroad searching for opportunities in their home country. This is not to mention the already unsatisfactory working conditions and social protection. Even more, many of the previous graduates have had to settle with jobs which did not match with their specializations.
Although the picture seems quite gloomy, this does not discourage us graduates from facing our challenges with confidence. The AUB experience not only gives us the knowledge and the analytical ability to help us understand our environment but also builds our communication skills, develops our spirit of initiative and adaptability and teaches us to value diversity and creativity. Our AUB degrees are an acknowledgement of "individuals committed to creative and critical thinking, life-long learning, personal integrity and civic responsibility, and leadership".
In a few moments from now, we will be announced graduates of 2009. By this, we will be following the path of thousands of AUB alumni. Many of these alumni have honored both AUB and their countries by holding some of the most influential and powerful posts. We hope we will be able to do the same. We also wish that, together with the rest of AUB alumni, we would make use of this large network for the good of future generations of AUBites.
Our graduation from AUB entails upon us responsibilities beyond meeting our career ambitions. Since its founding, AUB witnessed the birth of many of the progressive movements in the region. In the past few years, many of the AUB youth have invested their days and nights hoping for change. Despite their dedication and efforts, there have been many disappointments. Yet the challenge for young women and men is to become agents of change rather than being a mere reflection of society. Of course it is easier to follow and accept what there is. By doing so, the current power structures that breed politics of fear, racism, chauvinism, sectarianism and clientalism are preserved. Yet it is more self-fulfilling to challenge these structures and strive for a better society. In the words of Samir Kassir, it will require taking "… the initiative for an uprising of a different kind, an uprising against the self". In the long term, a system based on balanced and sustainable development, and marked by social justice, genuine democracy, solidarity and integrity benefits everyone.
An essential aspect that is in need for change is the state of women in our society. Women should no longer be object to stereotyping regarding their interests, their looks, or most importantly their roles. Why is it expected from us in addition to having paid jobs to be good wives, good mothers, good caregivers, well-dressed and affectionate human beings? I find it illogical that in a country where more than half of the citizens are women, only four have been elected to the parliament. Could the reason behind so few women politicians be, as the author Maureen Murphy said, that it is too much trouble to put makeup on two faces? It is about time for us to cross the bridge to gender equality. To my fellow women graduates I say, we should not accept anymore to be told to be pretty or to be intelligent. I believe we can decide for ourselves.
Throughout the past few years, AUB has undergone many improvements under the guidance of President Waterbury. I will take this opportunity to thank him on his dedication to AUB for all these years. I would also like to congratulate President Dorman, on behalf of class 2009, on his inauguration and wish him years of success in his quest to take AUB to next level. I believe three main concerns remain on our minds. We hope AUB in the following years will give additional importance to its socially diverse student-base through effective financial aid strategies and through finding a reasonable solution to the constant increase in tuition fees. Second, AUB should further promote graduate as well as undergraduate research opportunities and actively encourage students and professors to cooperate in this respect. Third, to sustain our competitiveness in this volatile job market and for AUB to stand up to its reputation as the beacon of the Middle East , further accreditation of all graduate and undergraduate programs should be a priority.
I am greatly honored to speak on behalf of the class of 2009. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for this privilege and to wish success to the graduates from: the Faculty of Medicine and the school of nursing, Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, School of Business, Faculty of Health Sciences, Faculty of Engineering and Architecture, and of course my fellow graduates from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. As Mark Twain said, "twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do." Today on June 27th 2009, let our new journey begin, an open road with no frontiers.
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