Class of 2018 graduates, parents, LAU President Jabra, LAU Vice President Dr. Salem, LAU faculty and staff, I am honored to be with you today to mark this joyous occasion. In my opinion, of all the things we do as the U.S. government and the U.S. Embassy here, the Tomorrow’s Leaders program is one of the very best things that I think we do. With this program, we try to reach beyond good grades and test scores. We try to identify, as Dr. Jabra said, the characteristics and qualities that will help graduates become leaders. There are a million definitions of what leadership is. But I think it often comes down to a couple of things: the ability to create a vision, a talent for motivating, inspiring, and energizing others, and a dedication to doing good in your communities, in your countries, and in the world.
Remember that each of you were selected by different U.S. Embassies around this region precisely because we saw in you these qualities. We saw in you the potential to become leaders.
I really love occasions like this, graduation day that marks a turning point in many ways. Because one thing all leaders know is that you must make a concerted effort, throughout your whole lives, to find those times to regularly stop and take stock. Graduation Day is a perfect day to do that.
Where are you going? Is your big goal today the same as it was when you entered the university four years ago? Has your vision evolved? Is it different? Look back. I always believe we do not see progress that we have made unless we look back. If you look back at where you were before you came to this university, I think you will appreciate how much progress you have made and how much you have accomplished. I would like to ask you to look forward and think about what you want to do in the next phase of your life.
But the very most important thing I want to ask all of you to do, especially today, is to look around. Think about how you got to where you are right now. Part of it was hard work for sure. But the answer to that question of “how” you got here really begins with the question “who”. Who was with you in good times and in bad? Your families, first and foremost. As Dr. Jabra said, your parents, who sacrificed so much, no matter how much you felt you messed up, or how bad a day was, or how badly you thought things were going to go. Your families were always, always behind you and they believed in you. Look around at your friends. These are the people that were with you when you had that paper to write, or when you had that exam that you knew was going to be really tough. Look around of course and see the teachers, faculty, and advisors at this university. The LAU staff who also believed in you the entire time and helped you get to where you are today.
So I’d like to send them especially a very special thanks. They work long before you get here and they will continue working long after you’ve gone with the next cadre. Their commitment to education is absolutely inspiring and I would really like to thank them.
We are proud of the over 330 Tomorrow’s Leaders students that have graduated and gone through this great program, and you are all going to join them now. I invite each and every one of you when you leave here today to recommit yourselves to being a leader. Take advantage of this amazing diploma and this amazing education that you have and think about how you can take that and become a better leader than you are today. As Dr. Jabra said in many ways you are already leaders.
The United States has invested almost $25 million in this program and we’ve done it because we know you will make a better world; you’re going to make a better community for sure, you’re going to make a better country for wherever you are from, but you’re going to make a better world for all of us. For us that is an investment that’s very much worth making.
Finally, thank you, again as Dr. Jabra said, nothing is more inspiring than being with all of you. Thank you for letting me be with you today and share this day. When I look around the Middle East there is plenty to worry about and there is plenty to be a little bit concerned about. But when I look around here in this room, I know it’s going to be ok. You guys are the future of this region, you are the future of your countries. And I’m absolutely confident that we, the older ones, are in very good hands.
Thank you very much and congratulations to everybody.