Sally Abou Melhem, Office of Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org
Graduates of the Tomorrow’s Leaders (TL) Scholarship Program at AUB for the academic year 2017-18 were celebrated on Saturday, June 2. Funded by the US Department of State's Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), this program is one of the many financial aid programs offered at AUB, which highlight the university’s commitment to make education affordable and available to bright and talented students in Lebanon and the region.
AUB President Fadlo Khuri, US Ambassador Elizabeth H. Richard, and director of the MEPI scholarship program at AUB, Dr. Hani Hassan, attended the graduation ceremony and addressed the graduates, congratulating them on their achievements and resilience.
The MEPI-TL program provides a four-year university scholarship as well as internship opportunities to young women and men from the MENA region who have the potential to become leaders. Students eligible to join this program are capable and highly motivated high school seniors with financial constraints coming from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. These students represent their region’s cultural, religious, and geographic diversity. Graduating this year are scholars from Bahrain, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and Tunisia.
“First of all, you have the ability to create a vision; second, you all have a talent for motivating, inspiring and energizing others; and third, you all clearly have a dedication to doing good in your communities, and in your countries and in the world,” said Ambassador Richard, as she spoke to the graduates about the characteristics that had earned them this scholarship.
By nurturing its scholars’ leadership skills and the spirit of civic engagement and volunteerism, the MEPI-TL program aims to build a cadre of future community, business, and national leaders who are civic-minded, intellectually able, and professionally skilled.
“This program and this university both aim to develop leaders,” said Richard. “Leaders are change makers, this is what we’re expecting of you. Whether you choose to make change at home, close to home, or in the bigger brighter world. Change is what we are looking for from you.”
Khuri also addressed the graduates saying, “You are tomorrow’s leaders because you are going to exercise the power of knowledge, the power of mercy, the ability to reach out even to those who don’t want to shake your hand. Then take them by the hand and take them with you on a voyage for the better.” He added, “Today, we get to say very briefly, and in eloquent words just how proud of you we are. How excited we are to see you change the world. And how confident we are that that change is coming.”
In his turn, Hani Hassan spoke about the future obstacles and challenges that might lie ahead of the graduates in the region, reminding them of what they have faced and overcome to get to where they are. “Please do not forget these years. Never underestimate yourselves, your capacities, your drive, and your thirst for change. Always remember why you pursued the TL scholarship in the first place, what made you continue steadfast despite everything, and sometimes against the odds,” said Hassan. “You wanted to see change, you wanted to be part of the change, you wanted to change how change is brought about! Well, here you are… Equipped and ready; tomorrow is all yours, so have at it.”
The event ended with two of the graduating students talking about their journeys as well as different success stories of Tomorrow’s Leaders alumni. Mahmoud Al Masri from Syria delivered an emotional speech entitled “Soldiers of Change” that resonated with many, receiving a standing ovation from the audience.
“Each one of us have a story that finally brought us here today and we can’t help but to think back at it. Thinking back at mine brings me inevitably at two words: I apologize,” said Al Masri, who then expressed his apologies to all the people suffering back home, for the position he is in today. He added that he is delivering a message from himself as well as his fellow graduates coming from different distressed countries in the region, “Our happiness in the time of your despair is only because we have become stronger with knowledge. Because this strength brings us closer towards you. Had we stayed weak we would have only been an additional burden.” He concluded his speech addressing his peers, “My fellow graduates, we all have a story that brought us here tonight. We all had a purpose that allowed us to get here. But let us not let it end here. Let us go down in history as people who never forgot it. As tomorrow’s leaders who used it to create a better tomorrow, together. A tomorrow where we will never have to apologize again.”