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!

Your Holiness, Beatitudes, Eminences, Excellencies, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen, good evening. Thank you for joining us here today. The occasion is marked, of course, by both urgency and sadness following recent events in the Middle East. But it is also an occasion for us to be hopeful, for though our brothers and sisters far away suffer much for their Christian faith, we are in solidarity with them this day. I believe much good will come from this Summit and ask you to carry forward today’s work when this historic gathering has concluded.

We have watched of late as extremists across the world have terrorized the INNOCENT, from my homeland, Nigeria, to the home of my ancestors, Lebanon. In Egypt, Syria, and Iraq, Christianity is attacked in its very birthplace. And the world is silent – silent in the face of terrorism and barbarism. These are the enemies of civilization, the enemies of people of good will in every land and of every creed, the enemies of freedom and human rights. They are the enemies of reason itself. And as Christians, we understand that human reason which naturally condemns violence in a special way: for that faculty of reason was given us by our Creator, as a reflection of His Truth. It is not a coincidence that these extremists, who do violence to order, to justice, and to truth, target those of their neighbors who bear Christ’s name. We are here today to discuss the violence against the followers of Christ in the world – in particular in the Middle East, the descendants of the first Christians who today are targeted for their faith, Christians who have been living in this land centuries before even the arrival of Islam and have been living in peace and harmony. Over the last couple of centuries, a war of Islamist extremism was declared to exterminate the Christians from their land of origin.

As the leader of Al Qaeda says in the video we have seen here tonight, “Our enemy is the cross.” What he added immediately after revealed the truth I speak of here: “Our enemy is the cross and the bearer of the cross is America.” Now, America’s government sometimes might be slow to react. Its people are not. We believe that its people stand not only against the terrorists, but with the Christians of the Middle East.

Our Moslem brothers and sisters in the Middle East fear extremism as much as we do and complain that terrorists have hijacked their religion. That is not enough. They must be aware that if Christians are to be exterminated today, tomorrow it will be their turn. So, they have to take immediate action by helping to stop the flow of funds and arms to those criminals to be able to stop their crimes and expansion.

The West must no longer be reluctant – or, perhaps I should say, ashamed – to protect Christians. Let’s face it: today, Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world and the Christian countries do nothing about it. While scores of churches are burned to the ground in Egypt, the West is silent. While Syrians are crucified and beheaded simply because they are Christian, the West is silent. While the Christians of Iraq are driven from their homes and cling to ancient monasteries in the mountains without food and water, the West is silent.

The Christian is told to turn the other cheek, to endure offense with the humility of Christ. We are taught that this is a Christian virtue. But a Christian has other duties as well. When one sees harm done to the defenseless, to women and children, he must defend them. There is no group more vulnerable and more persecuted today than the Christians of the Middle East.

Tomorrow is September 11. For as long as freedom perseveres, that day will be remembered. On that date in 2001, America was attacked. But the target was the whole civilized and free world, people of all religions, all believers in freedom, all believers in human rights, all believers in civilization, what America represents. That is why America was chosen. This is why I have invited to America the leaders of ancient Christian communities – to come to this center of freedom. To have their voices heard, to rally America’s great people to action in order to save Christianity where Christianity was born. For our brothers and sisters in the Middle East today, the struggle is not merely for freedom, but for survival. America has led before. It can do so again.

Two decades ago, America, a predominantly Christian nation, came to the defense of Muslims in Europe. It did so out of the very best attributes of America, to protect the weak, to promote peace, to stop the eradication of a helpless people in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

America is still a beacon of freedom across the world, and America’s great people must awaken to what is happening in the Middle East. We in this room must break this terrible silence – a silence that only invites more violence. Those who attacked America continue to attack Christians, for they are, in the mind of the extremist, one and the same. This is the evil that we face – together.

Christianity can and must survive in the Middle East. I believe this, and with the Grace of God and the help of all of you here tonight, I make a solemn promise that my colleagues and I will do everything in our power to support the survival of Christianity in its place of birth. I ask you to join me in this great pursuit.

Thank you.


Download Speech