Ambassador Elizabeth Richard’s Remarks at American Community School Graduation Ceremony

Ambassador Richard, PM Saad Hariri and UNSCOL Kaag at American Community School's graduation ceremony. Photo courtesy of ACS

Class of 2017 graduates, parents, ACS faculty and staff.

ACS head of school Dr. Greg MacGilpin, Jr,

Your Excellency Prime Minister Hariri,

Distinguished guests.  I am honored to be with you today to mark such a joyous occasion.

Congratulations to all the Graduates.  Today’s ceremony is the culmination of everything  you have achieved as ACS students.

Your diligence, dedication, and determination as evidenced by your excellent grades, extracurricular activities, and community service, have paid big dividends in academic scholarships as well as college acceptances.

An astonishing number of you are going directly to college.  Eight have received full academic scholarships.

As the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, I’m especially pleased that many of you have decided to continue your studies in the United States.

The campuses of 17 universities – Columbia, Georgetown, Northeastern, Pepperdine, Purdue, to name just a few – will be for 18 of you your new home-away-from-home.  These are top-flight colleges that attract serious scholars.  I join with your parents and teachers in congratulating you.

But while your school was created by mostly Americans, look at you now.   There are students here holding 64 different passports.   You are truly the embodiment of the global citizen.

Looking forward at a world where geographic borders are increasingly irrelevant also makes me want to look back.  I wanted to take a minute to reflect on the historic location where we find ourselves today.

ACS’ beginning was the Faculty School – founded in 1905.  At that time, Ras Beirut was on the rural outskirts of Beirut.  You had to go through farms and orchards to get from here to town.  There was no electricity, there were no cars.

Not long after the school’s founding, World War I broke out, and Beirut suffered terribly.  War, hardship, famine – they tormented those who were living here.

Yet teachers, parents, and students persisted through all of this… and they prevailed.

There are many lessons to be learned from the entire history of this school.  But I want to mention two.

First, do not ever put limits on your imagination.  Do you think those teachers and students in 1905 could imagine what you are living today?    Think about the fact that the computing power in  the cellphone in your pocket is exponentially greater than the computer that put Apollo 11 into space.   The Apollo Guidance Computer had about 12,300 transistors.  The iphone 6 has 1.6 billion.

I’m sure you all know Moore’s law.   Basically, it asserts that the processing speed of computers would double every two years.  And scientists said that there would have to be a limit, because at one point no more circuits could fit on a chip.

And now, they’re saying Moore’s law is dead.  We can actually imagine something more infinite… and make it happen.

The second lesson I take from the origins of your school is that the human spirit can overcome great adversity and go on to do great things.   Do not be afraid of adversity.  It is merely a challenge that, as we pass through it, makes us stronger.  Do not be afraid to fail.

That is not the end of a process.  It is the beginning of reflecting on what went wrong and how we can do better.    I can name a lot of famous and not-so-famous people who did not let society put limits on their imagination, and who persevered through adversity, through failure, to do great things.  The history books of every country on earth are full of examples.  But I would ask you to take a minute and look closer to home.  Look at your parents, your own families.  You will see inspiration close to home too, and I know that inspiration will sustain you as you go through life.

Seniors, graduation from high school is a singular, once-in-a-lifetime ceremony during which your parents and your community acknowledge your past achievements and look forward to your future accomplishments.  So in the midst of all this excitement, stop for a minute.

Look around you.  And take a minute to appreciate your friends, your teachers, and the time you spent here.

In closing, I want to acknowledge the many contributions of Dr. and Mrs. MacGilpin, the ACS faculty and staff, and, of course, the parents and friends of this extraordinary class of young scholars.  Your involvement in the lives of these 72 graduates has positioned them for success in whatever they choose to do.  Graduates – congratulations again.  Now  get out there and do great things.