Today, Ambassador Elizabeth Richard visited the American University of Beirut (AUB) to celebrate the graduation of 44 University Scholarship Program (USP) students. Through USP, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supports talented Lebanese public school graduates with full four-year undergraduate scholarships that include tuition fees, housing expenses, medical insurance, textbooks, and a monthly stipend.
The ceremony, which was held in AUB’s Charles Hostler Auditorium, featured remarks by AUB President Dr. Khuri and Ambassador Richard, as well as student testimonials, an artistic performance by USP scholars, and a showcase of community service projects. In her remarks, Ambassador Richard highlighted U.S. Government support for education in Lebanon. She also emphasized the importance of instilling the value of community service in students so they become well-rounded citizens who will better serve their communities and their country.
The U.S. government, through USAID, has invested nearly $100 million in the USP program since its inception in 2010, which has allowed 745 students to access high quality education at AUB and the Lebanese American University.
Following are Ambassador Richard’s remarks at this occasion:
Good morning everybody. I am really delighted to be here. Dr. Khuri, students, faculty and staff. I am so happy to be with you today to congratulate you on the completion of your studies, and to applaud you for your community service achievements as part of USAID’s University Scholarship Program (USP). I know that the 44 graduating scholars participated in AUB’s cap and gown ceremony about ten days ago.
Today, I am happy to be able, as the U.S. Ambassador, to take a moment in a smaller setting to celebrate your achievements. As our USP scholars, you are very special to us. USP is a very unique program. The intent is to make a first rate education available to promising young students who might otherwise not have that chance. You all know how selective the process was, and how much faith and trust we put in you to make sure that every person benefiting from this scholarship, gets the very most of this opportunity.
Let me assure you – with over 745 graduates of various USAID programs over the seven years we have been doing this, we have never been disappointed.
Lebanon’s development depends on human capital and the talent of its young people. Education, particularly at a premier institution like this, is instrumental in developing that potential. Countless Lebanese citizens have made their mark both here in Lebanon and abroad. The education that you have received at AUB will help you continue to make important contributions.
That will be wonderful for Lebanon. But many people ask me why the United States spends time and money educating other people’s children. I would like to answer that with one of my favorite quotes from Aristotle: “All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth.”
That is why the United States invests in education in Lebanon. The world is more interconnected than ever. Our economies are inextricably linked and interdependent. And instability or war in one part of the world affects all of us.
We believe that stability, prosperity, tolerance, open-mindedness, and enlightened thinking that you are practicing here in this country will be good for all of us. It’s good for the larger Middle East and it’s good for the world.
I know that everyone is aware of what the United States is doing to support the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Internal Security Forces and the Police as they secure your country and secure the people of Lebanon. And I am very proud of those efforts. But I want to highlight today our equally strong commitment to education, and I am as proud of our commitment. Since 2010, we have invested more than $280 million in education across Lebanon. Nearly $100 million of that is for scholarships to support to people like you.
So I am very pleased to announce today an additional contribution of $5.7 million towards this very program. This will enable at least 52 more students to take advantage and continue their studies. I can’t wait to meet these new members of our USP family.
As you know, building a solid academic foundation is only one aspect of our scholarship program. Students in this program are also required to immerse themselves in meaningful volunteerism and active community work to gain new experiences, insights, and life skills that cannot be learned in a classroom environment.
Beyond the important value of service that nurtures altruism and philanthropy, community projects provide a meaningful opportunity for you to enrich your resumes, and broaden your horizons, by learning through doing. I look forward to hearing about your community prospects and volunteer experiences.
Before I close, I would like to extend my deep appreciation to AUB’s faculty, staff, and president, for their steadfast commitment to your learning, civic education, and career preparation. Thank you very much for that dedication. We cherish our 150 year old relationship with AUB – it remains a beacon of light in the region.
I will leave you with one more quote – this time from Albert Einstein, a great American: “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”
I believe that the real value of what you learned here is how to think critically, and how to think for yourself; how to appreciate diversity; how to listen to others and learn from differences of opinion; and how the seemingly small investment of one person in his or her community can start to change the world.
We are very proud of you, and we can’t wait to see the wonderful things you will do in the world. Congratulations.