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!