The official start of AUB’s 153rd academic year: “We are here to provide hope and opportunity”

​​​​​​​Sally Abou Melhem​, Office of Communications, communications@aub.edu.lb​

AUB welcomed its new academic year in its annual official ceremony held in Assembly Hall, and headed by AUB President Fadlo R. Khuri. Chairman of the Board of Trustees Philip S. Khoury, Provost Mohamed Harajli, deans, trustees, vice presidents, faculty, students and various university stakeholders were present in the ceremony.

The ceremony commenced with the academic procession and national anthem. President Khuri then took the podium and delivered his address: “It can happen here." Partway through his speech​, AUB student Sarah Nasser played the guitar and sang Bob Dylan's “Song for Woody," which related to the topic.

After an introduction where Khuri mentioned some alarming episodes from this summer, including the forced cancellation of the concert in Byblos by AUB's own Mashrou Leila, among other unfortunate international events, he said, “We are not here to rail against the lack of fairness, justice, and opportunity in the world. Rather, we exist to give hope to the hopeless, opportunity to the unfortunate, learning to the deserving, irrespective of their abilities to pay for that world-class education." He added, “We do this by recruiting the best and brightest, by sheltering and supporting them through the storms to come, by providing counsel and conscience to the leaders of the region. We are here to stay, to provide hope and opportunity for a better and brighter future."

He continued, “Perhaps it would enjoin us to ask what can happen here to change a country, and a region so the best and brightest young people do not have to leave their homes to gain a fair opportunity to succeed, to assume their natural human rights to health, happiness and to a better life." He added, “We must ask how to create an environment where the planet, which we are currently consuming at breakneck pace, can rather be cherished and preserved for generations and indeed for millennia to come."

Khuri then spoke about the fact that much of the most significant progress throughout the course of history has been achieved in periods of stress, suffering, and pain. He then moved on to talk about how anger can in fact be used to bring about positive change. “How do we harness that same anger that, properly directed, can resolve lingering issues?" He asked. He then highlighted “aspirational qualities" that British historian Andrew Roberts had discussed in his book about Napoleon, including meritocracy, equality before the law, property rights, religious toleration, modern secular education, and sound finances. He continued, “Let us consider what we at AUB are doing and can do to promote those same qualities in order to model a fairer and more just society, a more inclusive world."

He mentioned AUB's faculty who are making fundamental discoveries that can impact the region, its medical center that cares for some of the most ill and unfortunate in the region, and its nonacademic staff who are dedicated to the university's mission in spite of the economic maelstrom threatening the country and the region. He also mentioned AUB's students who are “lighting up villages, educating the underprivileged, entertaining the country and the region with their music and theatre, and creating new value through innovation and application." Khuri also spoke about the efforts AUB's community in addressing the plight of the displaced Syrian population in Lebanon, such as building sheltered schools through the Ghata project, surveying working conditions for migrant children, and building portable electronic medical records.

Khuri then discussed the importance of supporting AUB's faculty and staff,“by ensuring that they are not subjected to a severe challenge to their quality of life should the region and the country's economic, social, and political instabilities continue to build."

He continued to talk about what AUB is doing to support its students. “We have steadily increased both our need- and merit-based financial assistance such that it covers 60 percent of our student body, with new merit- and need-based programs that will be rolled out this year. At the same time, we are fully aware of their concerns with regard to the necessary benchmarking to dollar tuitions that were necessitated by our long and successful efforts to join the Common Application." Khuri also spoke about the diversity of the student body coming from all around the world, and about AUB's goal to have 30 percent of its students by 2030 being international.

“We pledge to examine every day for lessons learned, for deeds accomplished, and for areas of improvement. And we will do so in a manner befitting this great, progressive university, one which admitted women leaders a half century before the Ivy League schools diversified their gender base," he stated.

Khuri concluded, “So I say, yes, it can happen here. We can lead by example, provide for our community, and continue to model a fair, just, and inclusive society." Adding that in the final analysis, it is “our dream, that all of our own academic and biologic children and the peoples of this great region whose learning we are privileged to lead, will one day be judged on the content of their character." He concluded with a line from a Robert Frost poem, saying, “to make that dream into a reality, 'we have promises to keep, and miles to go before we sleep, and miles to go before we sleep.'"

The ceremony concluded with the alma mater.