Thank you very much, it is nice to see everybody and thank you very much for coming out on a Saturday. I think it is really important that we have the opportunity to spend a few minutes with you as Tomorrow’s Leaders graduates because you are so special to us at the U.S. Embassy, but also as back in America. This is one of my favorite programs ever, so thank you for coming out today.
Those of you who are graduating today, and your fellow students who are still in their second or third year really are special to us. You are all very smart and you are all very motivated, otherwise you never would have been admitted to this incredible university. But you also won a Tomorrow’s Leaders full scholarship because you possess characteristics and qualities that we really believe mark you as future leaders.
What are those qualities? There are many of them, and each one of you has very special attributes and talents as individuals. But I think if I had to sum it up, and I look at what we are looking for when we choose people for this program you all have three things in common: First of all, you have the ability to create a vision. Second, you all have a talent for motivating, inspiring, and energizing others. And third, you all clearly have a dedication to doing good in your communities, in your countries, and in the world.
This program – and this University – both aim to develop leaders. Do we want you all to be CEOs of big successful companies? Not exactly. Although, I suspect your parents would be very proud and very happy if we did that.
But I want to distinguish leaders and managers. Managers run things. Leaders transform things. They transform businesses and other enterprises to be more profitable, more efficient, and successful, for sure. But they also transform people and societies. Leaders are change-makers. This is what we are expecting of you, whether you choose to make change at home, close to home, or in the bigger, brighter world. Change is what we are looking for from you.
What makes leaders successful? That is also a subject that of millions and millions of pages in every language and every library in the world. But I would highlight two traits that I always see in successful leaders. And I think they are particularly apt to point out today.
First of all leaders know that you have to make a concerted effort, throughout your whole life, to stop from time to time, think and take stock. I think Graduation Day is a perfect day to do that. What have you learned? Not about your major and the university, but about life? How are you different now than you were when you started this program here four years ago? How will you use the incredible achievement of a university degree from AUB to make your communities and your countries a better place? Where do you want to go from here?
I think the other trait that I see in great leaders is a strong sense of gratitude. Dr. Khoury referenced mercy, and I think those two are very closely related. Modern science is now documenting every world religion has been saying for many many centuries to all of us. That is that we are better in mind, body, and spirit when we practice gratitude.
I would also encourage all of you to look around you today, this week, and next weekend and think about how you got here. Think about the hard work of course, that’s part of it. But the answer to the question of “how” you got here really begins with “who”. Who believed in you, who helped you get here? Your families, first of all who always believed in you. Think of your worst moment, your biggest mistake and your families always believed in you despite that. Your friends, your fellow classmates, who were with you through tough tests and late night deadlines and tough exams. Of course, your teachers and advisors here at AUB and in the Tomorrow’s Leaders program who I know helped you along the way to stick with it when it looked a little bit tough. So please take a moment as I said during this week to think with gratitude about those who have helped you get here.
We are proud of the over 330 Tomorrow’s Leaders graduates out there in the world and you are joining them. You are going to be models for those who come behind you and we are very excited to welcome you to our alumni group. We have invested as the United over $25 million in this program. We have done it for a reason, we have done it because we believe that you have the ability to make the world better for all of us. You will improve your communities, you will improve the areas you choose to work in, but you will also improve the situation around the globe for all of us, and that, for me, is why we make this investment.
So I would like to finally close by thanking you for letting us be with you today and through this week to help celebrate your great work here and this milestone. I know we are in a very difficult period in the Middle East and there are a lot of reasons to be concerned and a lot of people are very worried. I am not worried when I look at all of you, and I look at all of the young people that will graduate from this university this summer, this June, I am extremely optimistic. I know we are going to be fine. I’ll leave you with that word, because of you we are going to be fine. Thank you very much.