Excellencies … Reverend Father Walid … Ladies and Gentlemen … Dear Friends.
It is my privilege to be here at Notre Dame University and it is a great honor and personal pleasure to be speaking on the occasion of the launch of the faculty of architecture, art and design named after my late brother Ramez Chagoury.
A year ago our family was hit by one of life’s most cruel tragedies. We lost Ramez, the eldest son, the loving brother, the affectionate father. My father was going to give the speech tonight, but because emotions can be intensely overwhelming on such occasions, here I am, instead, standing before you on behalf of my parents Gilbert and Rose-Marie Chagoury.
I can’t think of a more appropriate school than this faculty to hold my brother’s name. An artist at heart my brother Ramez is probably watching us honored that his name will, from now on, be associated with the future architectural and artistic talents of this country. A lover of the arts and music in particular, he delighted us his entire life with the wonders of his creativity. I can still vividly remember our family gatherings during which he would pass on to his children Alexandra and Gilbert his love for music, by playing the piano and having them sing for us all. My brother was a wonderful example of unconditional generosity and the emotions that he has transmitted through music will forever live in us. This is how I’ve learned in death one of life’s greatest lessons; that music is a unique way of expression, being a form of art that would leave you with indelible memories and emotions.
Architecture and design, just like music, outlives us all and leaves those who remain with amazing memories to cherish.
This is why I long that the love Ramez had for art and his creativity can be shared through the walls of this faculty and transmitted to its students. That it will allow them to develop the vision and skills to lead and provide them with the needed education to shine not only locally, but also regionally and internationally.
While preparing my speech I couldn’t help but think about our great poet Gibran Khalil Gibran whose thoughts detailed in an open letter he addressed to the Lebanese parliament in 1925 were later made famous by John F. Kennedy in his inaugural speech:
“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”
Increasingly I have realized that this is exactly what my parents have been trying to do, to set an example for my siblings and I. Just like Gibran, even though they have lived outside of Lebanon most of their lives; they have always remained deeply rooted in the land of the cedars. And going beyond asking what they could do for their country, they have acted. Acted by loving, acted by caring, acted by giving. And what better way to give than to invest in the future of a nation’s youth. Any “nation’s hope relies on [its] children and children’s hope relies on education.”
Committed to the welfare of Lebanon and their heritage, my parents have always promoted education not only in their northern village of Miziara, but also in the rest of the country. The Ramez G. Chagoury faculty of architecture, art and design is just another stepping stone on that path.
The bricks and mortars have been built, it now falls on the teachers to lead their students to unchartered levels, pushing the next generation beyond their comfort zones and bringing out the true artist in each and every one of them. My father has always said that the most important job is that of a teacher, they are the ones to mold the generation to come, and only through their dedication, hard-work and love can the students of the future have the knowledge and tools to face this increasingly complicated world.
The students that will roam these halls belong to a generation unlike any other before. A generation that gives us hope. A generation that looks towards a better future rather than looking backwards into the past. And this department embodies so much of what a new Lebanon could be. What a new Lebanon will be.
And if anybody knows what it will take to get us there; it’s you
Because as the next generation of architects, designers and artists you know what it is to work together, to work towards a collective vision. to build something bigger than yourselves.
You have the opportunity to build roads and bridges to connect our towns, rather than barriers and checkpoints to divide them.
You remind us that “buildings are not simply expressive sculptures. They make visible our personal and our collective aspirations as a society. Great architecture can give us hope. Great architecture can heal.”
Reflecting upon all of this, I really couldn’t think of any better way for my parents to celebrate my brother’s life. Ramez was a great lover of Lebanon; always striving for the good of this country Ramez had high hopes for the future of our nation and he too believed that art, design and culture would play a driving role in shaping it. That is why I deeply believe that having his name engraved in one of the most notable universities of the country can only make him proud. As his name, will be remembered through the achievements of young Lebanese who by getting together to collaborate, innovate and inspire, will receive an education that will allow them to successfully stand out nationally and internationally.
Ramez may no longer be with us, but the values he believed in, the love he had for this country, the hope he had for a brighter future, those things live on.
Today is a day of celebration, a day to celebrate my brother’s life as well as celebrate the inauguration of this new addition to Notre Dame University. I am sure I speak on behalf of all of you in thanking my parents, Gilbert and Rose-Marie Chagoury for their incredibly generous contribution.
Architecture, art and design are a form of expression like no other. It brings people together, allowing them to interpret an image or structure while at the same time appreciating a certain form of beauty.
More importantly, “art speaks where words are unable to explain”, so enough words from me and more creativity from you is now in order.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you very much.
 The New Frontier, written and first published in 1925 in Arabic. Also translated as The New Deal.
 Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Durban Liu Yantao
 Michael Murphy