June 30, 2007
Ladies and gentlemen, I find in this salute that I receive from AUB a symbol with a double meaning. It is first a celebration of Arabic poetry, not just my person. It is also a celebration of the human and cultural environment created by this university, in loyalty to the aspirations of young generations, in an edifice of knowledge outside the arenas of political conflict and its direct currents, but not closed to major human and patriotic aspirations.
It is an honor that links me to individuals who illuminated this university. I learned a lot from them and from the lessons of their histories, starting with Eliza Tompson, pioneer of women's education in 1834; Cornelius Van Dyck, the champion of free thought and the lover of Lebanon and the Arab language; to Butros Al-Bustani and his avant-garde intellect, up to the contemporary landmarks Constantine Zurayk, Anis Freiha, Jibrail Jabbur, Anis Makdisi, Antoine Ghattas Karam, Khalil Hawi, Ihsan Abbas, Yussef Ibish, Nicola Ziyadeh, Yusuf Al-Khal to name but a few of those great departed. This also means I belong to the humanity of knowledge and the mission of the unifying culture, and the reach for the future, far above the diaries of conflict and phase politics. It is the deep roots of this university in the motion of Lebanese culture in particular and Arab culture in general. I mean the explosive and creative nucleus of poetry. It is in poetry that two worlds meet: the inner world and the outer world. It was in poetry that Arab language carved its course to the major causes of humanity: freedom, absolute, love, body, meaning. "The friend is another who is you," says Abou Hayyan Attawhidi.
Allow me to see in the head of this university, its faculty, visionary leaders,and trustees, friends who are all of you. Allow me to mention in particular John Waterbury. I salute you one by one. My special high salute goes to Beirut, the high city which nurtures this university as well as early creativity pillars which took part in establishing the civilization of the universe. By history and experience, Beirut is worthy of teaching us all how to love Lebanon more and how to have more faith in its destiny, and how to strive to make Lebanon's space more brotherly, more shining, and more splendid.