-As prepared for delivery-
Good evening. Thank you for inviting me to join you. It is a pleasure to celebrate Nicolas’ selection as head of MIT’s global alumni association. Nicolas, the new role you will be taking on is just another step in the work you do to promote education and the value of the American educational experience. Since you co-founded the MIT club for Lebanon in 1987, you have worked tirelessly to link MIT students and alumni through social and professional networking and community service. And Nicolas, for as long as I have known you, I have known you to be a fighter – a fighter for a better business climate in Lebanon; a fighter for stronger American-Lebanese relations; and a fighter for better education and greater exposure to American business ethics and practices.
As the American Ambassador to Lebanon, I work every day with the Lebanese government on political, social, military, and economic issues and to foster relations between our two countries. Yet, the ties that bind America and Lebanon go well beyond governments. We cooperate in business, in culture, and – as we celebrate tonight – in education. American institutions of education in Lebanon – such as AUB, LAU, Haigazian University, IC, ACS, American schools in Nabatieh and Tripoli – contribute every day to building the relationship between Lebanon and America, and between individual Lebanese and Americans. Presidents and ambassadors come and go, politics have their ups and downs, but educational ties expand and deepen with each new generation. I am proud that the Embassy helps create that expansion.
Every day, the American Embassy in Lebanon works with universities, schools, students, and organizations like the MIT club to expand educational opportunities. For example, through the United States Agency for International Development, the American people have provided and pledged more than $180 million dollars in assistance for education programs since 2010. This assistance has helped renovate public school buildings, provided public school teachers with English language proficiency courses, equipped schools with science laboratory and computer equipment and trained staff on its use, and offered full scholarships to public school students to attend American-style universities in Lebanon.
The U.S. government, through USAID, the Middle East Partnership Institute, and our Public Diplomacy section, helps train teachers in new methodologies, offers after-school enrichment classes, and gives women in rural areas access to English language courses.
We also help students learn more about education in the United States. Working with Amideast, the Embassy sponsors Education USA – a free service for Lebanese students seeking advice on university study in the U.S. In the past six years, six Lebanese students were accepted by MIT alone after receiving advice from Education USA.
While governments can and must help foster ties between our two countries, the real binding ties between Americans and Lebanese rest with the individual – and with millions of individuals. Without that dedicated student, that innovative teacher and administrator, the supportive parent, and, of course, that enthusiastic alumnus, that Nicolas, there would be no ties. Nicolas, thank you for strengthening the links between Lebanon and America; thank you for strengthening these positive ties that build bridges between our two countries.
I thank you and wish you the best of luck as you expand your role with MIT alumni around the world.