GRC-USEK

Jounieh, July 13, 2017

Before I start my address, allow me to thank the administration of the USEK and in particular its President Reverend Doctor Father Hobeika. When they had to choose a notable figure to be your commencement speaker, they bestowed on me that great honor and allowed me to be an USEK alumnus like you while I’m receiving today an honorary doctorate that made me extremely proud and happy.

Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Graduates:

Today is your D Day, or should I rather say our D Day? I am privileged by the doctoral degree awarded to me and which shall remain attached to my name.

This is especially true as I reflect on the hard work and energy each and every one of you has invested in obtaining his or her degree. The doctoral degree is the most cherished of all degrees and yet I, personally, never had the opportunity to pursue higher education. At USEK, you have not been taught only what to think, but mainly how to think. Terence White, in “The Once and Future King” let us listen to the whispering of Merlin the Magician who was tutoring a young boy who will become a great king; Merlin said that learning is the only thing that never fails.

There is a moral to this story.
Allow me to draw on my personal history and life experience to give you today words of wisdom, and words of encouragement.

1. My first point is that true success is not reflected in the acquisition of material things. A wealthy man is not necessarily rich. A rich life is not a check-list of acquisitions and achievements. Your CV is not your life objective but only shorthand for the milestones that have marked your personal itinerary.

Yes, your graduation was a very important goal. But this is only the beginning of the road. There are many more miles to travel.
Keep in mind Confucius teaching: It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.

As for Aristotle, Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.
Keep in mind that who you are is more important than what you have.And keep in your heart a place for values as for Clive Lewis teachings: Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.

As from today, lot of people will forget how you came to USEK, but everybody will remember that you graduated from USEK. I see you here with parents who have forgotten all their tears and sacrifices. Let’s give the proud parents a round of applause.

My grand-father used to say: « What you hear and what you see is not necessarily the same thing ».
The accumulation of diplomas does not make the great writer, lawyer, scientist or business entrepreneur.
The recipe for real success is a blend of knowledge, wisdom, sacrifice, love of what you are doing, vision and hard work.

Success never comes by accident. In case it does, it is always a fleeting glimpse.
For me, to be rich is to be knowledgeable, wise, to have common sense, to have the inspiration to become a political leader, to have the vocation to become a religious leader, to have the dedication of a scientist, the creativity and imagination of a writer or poet, the business acumen of an entrepreneur.

In other words, the desire and ability to create, innovate, lead and transform the world.
A millionaire has not necessarily achieved more than the doctor who saves lives or the engineer who builds monuments, or the teacher who makes education possible or the astronomer who search in the past to discover the future. Try to be as modest as one of the most brilliant brains of the last few centuries Albert Einstein who used to learn from yesterday, live for today and hope for tomorrow. He always told his students not to try to become men of success but men of value. For him, wisdom is not a product of schooling, but a lifelong attempt to acquire it.

2. My second point is about success and failure. Sir Winston Churchill used to say: if failure is not fatal, success is not final; it is the courage to continue that counts.

At your age, having begun to work at the age of 15, I was already, and possibly prematurely, in positions of responsibility.
My desire for success was great and like any other human being I had fear of failure of not being able to take care of my family.
But never has the sense of risk shaken the confidence I have in my ability to achieve goals.

Yes, I too have had setbacks, but when things have gotten rough, I have drawn on my inner strength and learned things about myself that I could learn no other way. So, as you launch your careers, be proud of your success, learn from your failures and carry on with your ambitions.

3. My third point is about the value of education. Once you are educated, your enlightened mind cannot become again dark.
History has accelerated. Many traditional jobs are disappearing. Less-qualified jobs are moving East and South. I will never forget some wise words from a big African leader Nelson Mandela: Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. And of course, the educated will lead in this worldwide competition.
You can never be overeducated. You appreciate that getting ahead in life without an education has become more difficult by the day. Please value the degree you receive today. It speaks of your intellectual abilities, diligence and hard work.
You have been taught to think out of the box, to put forward your ideas. You were not alone in this effort. I salute the Faculty and staff of USEK University and the student body as a whole. Each and every degree awarded today is the peak of an individual and collective effort. Today, you have no choice, you have to think “global”. It may happen soon enough, one day there will be no borders, no boundaries and no countries, your only passport will be your heart.

This evening, you are sitting next to your fellow graduates and many of them will be life-long friends. Some of you may even be clever enough to imagine that you may be sitting next to one of the future leaders of our country. Or indeed that you yourself may be that leader! There is a fair chance that will turn out to be true. Hence I urge you to treat your neighbor with respect! He may be the next Général DeGaulle, Michael Dubakey, Saïd Akl, Camille Chamoun, Steve Jobs, Tom Barrack or Father Georges Hobeika.
In concluding, allow me to point out the special duty you have towards your motherland. We are proud of Lebanon and you are its greatest resource. You are its present and you are its future. You are its potential.

We Lebanese, have shown for many generations now, that the world is flat. Recently, on social medias, you can watch a video confirming a connection between Phoenicians and some remote sites in New Hampshire in the United States. Our past history has been stolen; do not anybody steel our future.
A Lebanese is almost by definition a citizen of the world. That is how I felt as a young man growing up in Nigeria and Lebanon and then travelling all over the world.

May you be the future Ambassadors of our country, the next Danny Thomas, Charles Malek, Carlos Slim, Amine Maalouf, Carlos Ghosn or Philip Salem.
Our country needs you. You have the capacity, the resources and the willpower and hopefully, the political motivation. We need your commitment to make Lebanon the flourishing democracy, it deserves to be.

Later today, when this meeting shall be over, we will each go our own way. May some of these thoughts stay with you for your own life and for a better life for you and our country. And finally, some wit and wisdom from Wayne Huizenga:

“Some people dream of success, while other people wake up every morning and make it happen”.

Thank you!

Watch the full video of the inauguration event of the Ramez G. Chagoury Faculty of Architecture, Arts and Design, Notre Dame University (more…)

The Faculty of Architecture, Arts and Design (FAAD) at Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU) in Lebanon was officially named after a my late son, Ramez G. Chagoury on November 4, 2016, at Issam Fares Hall, following a ceremony that unveiled the permanent memorial plaque of ‘Ramez Gilbert Chagoury.’ Read NDU’s Press Release here.

My son Chris gave a wonderful and touching opening speech.

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.

Thanks to all the family and friends that joined us on this special occasion. May go bless you all.

 

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.

NNN-2727

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[1] 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.”[2]

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.”[3]

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”[4], so enough words from me and more creativity from you is now in order.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Thank you very much.

 

 

 

[1] The New Frontier, written and first published in 1925 in Arabic. Also translated as The New Deal.

[2] Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Durban Liu Yantao

[3] Michael Murphy

[4] Mathiole

My brother-in-law, George Chamchoum, who is himself quite an accomplished film director and producer, surprised me with this video montage of passages of the past and present daily life in the Chagoury household. George entitled this bio documentary “This is Your Life!”. Enjoy!

On February 27th, 2011 I was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Civic Services from Our Lady of Mount Lebanon, Saint Peter Cathedral.

I was humbled by the presence of His Eminence Cardinal Sandri and His Excellency Bishop Shaheen.

No words can truly express my gratitude to those who have recognized me and awarded me with this great honor, nonetheless I hereby share my acceptance speech in an attempt to describe, in my own words, what this honor means to me:

Your Eminence Cardinal Sandri, Your Excellency Bishop Shaheen, and all of you, Honorable Ladies & Gentlemen – which makes everybody present here; A good friend of mine, a very wise gentleman, told me once, when I was the first Lebanese to be honored by the House of Lebanon, that only when you are recognized and honored by your own People, you truly realize that you have really succeeded in your visions, in the causes for which you fight and in your deeds”.

And here I am, being once more honored by my own People. This time, by the Maronite Church, to which I proudly belong.

Every Maronite knows and should always remember that being Maronite is synonymous with being Lebanese. Though we belong to the Eastern Rite, we are an integral part of the Catholic Church. We can pray, marry and baptize in any Catholic Church in the world.

The reason, nonetheless, for which the Maronites, everywhere in the diasporas, keep on erecting their own Churches and building their own Institutions, is to keep their relationship to Lebanon alive, therefore expressing their profound and unconditional attachment to the country of their ancestors. The Maronite Church is not only a creed and a religious affiliation, but also an identity. Being Lebanese however, does not mean that you are a Maronite. Lebanon is, in fact, a pluralistic and multi-confessional Democracy where all are equally Lebanese; but, being a Maronite always means that you are a Lebanese, at least spiritually.

It is, therefore, our sacred duty, the duty of each one of us, to make sure that Lebanon continues to exist as an Independent and Democratic Country. Not only because of our great love for Lebanon, but also for the existence of our Church, the Maronite Church.

Lebanon has gone through a lot of turmoil throughout its history, both ancient and modern; but, thank God, it has continued to exist because of its people’s will and love and because of the Diaspora’s attachment to the motherland, its support and assistance, irrespectively of the different regions or religions to which its members belong. As we all know, most of us here today are part of the Lebanese Diaspora which is spread all over the world.

The reason for which Lebanese have excelled wherever they went, regardless of their number, succeeding outstanding achievements in business, politics, health, science and education, is because they always understand and assimilate the values and the traditions of the Countries that have hosted them. I have faith in our people. It is faith grounded in experience. If you doubt me, just look around you to see proof of our strength and ingenuity. Nowhere is this more true than here in America.

One of the greatest and most successful Lebanese communities in the Diaspora is the one of the United States of America, the greatest and most influential country in the world. Lebanon owes a lot to the United States. The American People have always assisted Lebanon and supported its cause, regardless of the Government they had and the Leaders they elected. For this, the Lebanese, whether in Lebanon or around the world, will always be thankful to the American People. The American understanding and support have always been crucial to Lebanon and helped us, as well, to preserve the many values we share.

Throughout my life, I have sought to place the dignity of our Community and human beings at the center of everything I did. Preserving our Maronite heritage and securing real and lasting improvement in our lives are the measures of all what we should always do. It is in this spirit that I humbly and proudly accept today the Acknowledgment granted in favor of a Lifetime achievement for Civic Services, from Our Lady of Mount Lebanon, Saint Peter Cathedral.

This homage has no parade, no pantheon of victory.   It is a simple and noble message of growing mutual understanding that human diversity, whether in Lebanon or elsewhere, is both the reality that makes dialogue necessary, and the very basis for that dialogue, a message that I will always carry and relish. No one knows, better than the honorable members of this community, that this recognition is also the symbol and the expression of our will to promote our noble cause, the one that needs the genuine support of genuine friends, of people with the courage to promote change toward achievements despite all obstacles.

We, therefore, need deeds that respect our promises, honor our commitments, achieve our goals, and never lose our own identity, as Maronites and loyal citizens.

Once more, Lebanon is, at the present time, experiencing difficult and perilous moments. May the men and women who hold the destiny of our people in their hands, avoid anything that might cause the present situation to deteriorate and become even more dangerous. May they take to heart the words of the Apostle Paul:

“If it be possible, live peaceably with all men”.

I want to add that the Lebanese People, irrespective of their Religion and Faith, have at least two things in common: they all love Lebanon, and they all believe in one God. Inspired by our ideals and convictions, we can achieve our goals. We would have done our best to serve Lebanon and make it a peaceful Nation, where we will live in harmony with all our fellow citizens, for the sake of Lebanon and the perennial existence of our Church.

Thank you.

Chagoury Cup

The Chagoury Cup was adopted on January 10, 2011 to encourage good fellowship of the Lebanese American Foundation Golf Classic. Sponsored by myself, the cup is awarded to the golf foursome with the 1st place Low Gross and 1st place Low Net in the annual Golf Classic. The name of each member of the winning foursomes will be engraved onto the perpetual Chagoury Cup trophy and shall be displayed at the House of Lebanon.

I would like to personally congratulate this year’s winners:

Low Gross Champions:

  1. Paul Wakim
  2. Harvey Owen
  3. Phil Kelly
  4. Rick Santana

Low Net Champions:

  1. Dr. Ray Irani
  2. Salim Israwi
  3. Steve Seblani
  4. Rick Rielly

2nd Place Low Gross Winners:

  1. Fouad El-Abd
  2. Mike Tortomasi
  3. Richard Smith
  4. Steven Woods

3rd Place Low Gross Winners:

  1. Nabil Nahman
  2. Jimmy Chagoury
  3. Dagon Massey
  4. Chris Nahman

Closest to Hole Winner:

  • Mike Tortomasi

Ladies Long Drive Champion

  • Nadia Hamdan

Men’s Long Drive Champion

  • Steve Seblani

Ladies Division Winners

  1. Najwa Shammas
  2. Marianne Simon
  3. June Kim
  4. Celina Ledford