Today, U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Richard H. Jones visited the American University of Beirut (AUB) to celebrate the graduation of 54 University Scholarship Program (USP) students. Through USP, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supports disadvantaged, yet 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 held in AUB’s Charles Hostler Auditorium featured remarks by AUB Interim Provost Dr. Mohamad Harajli and Ambassador Jones, as well as student testimonials, presentations about community service projects, and an artistic performance by USP scholars.
The U.S. government, through USAID, has invested nearly $100 million in the USP program since its inception in 2010, which has allowed more than 600 students to access high quality education at AUB, Lebanese American University (LAU), and Haigazian University. USP provides Lebanese students the opportunity to pursue an American-style education that promotes tolerance and social equality, as well as challenges students to develop skills in leadership and critical thinking. All scholars are required to maintain academic excellence, actively engage in community service and leadership training, and partake in career preparation workshops.
Below are Ambassador Jones’ remarks as prepared for the event:
Good morning Provost Harajli, AUB faculty and staff, and all the students present today. It is an honor and a privilege for me to join you on this special occasion as you USP AUB graduates take the final step or should I say leap from the classroom into the outside world. Today is a celebration of your hard work, commitment and tenacity, but most of all it is the culmination of one of the most challenging yet the most rewarding experiences of your lives thus far. As you leave this room today, you open a new chapter in your life that will be your first step into what we all hope is a bright future for you and your families.
The words of the great American patriot Benjamin Franklin resonate well today: “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” Investments in knowledge have always been important to the American government and our investment in your individual quests for knowledge has been fueled by our strong belief in the transformational potential of education. In Lebanon, our investment in USP in the last decade has provided Lebanese youth with greater opportunities and a pathway to a better life. There is no way to measure their overall true value, but in dollar terms, since 2010, our merit scholarships to public school students to pursue university studies at Lebanon’s finest institutions have amounted to $99.5 million dollars.
I know that you, our students, are justifiably very proud of yourselves for accomplishing this goal. You have walked a long way and overcome many barriers in life and in your education to reach this milestone. But education is a lifelong journey, and it doesn’t end when you leave university. In fact, it is really only just beginning. Your education up to now has really been mostly to teach you how to learn. Now you have to take over to finish the job, if indeed it can ever be finished. We urge you to build on the solid educational foundation and life skills that you acquired through USP to continue your education. Most importantly, never cease to listen to your inner voice, follow your passions, and keep working to fulfill your dreams. With luck, you will never actually finish the job of educating yourself but keep on scaling new heights of knowledge, always finding higher peaks beyond those you have just conquered until the end of your days.