American University of Beirut

Edward Said President's Speech

President Waterbury: 

It is extraordinarily difficult to introduce Professor Said and to summarize his accomplishments.  Difficult not because I fear boring the audience or telling our guests what they already know, but rather difficult because Edward has heard all this before and traveling all this distance to hear it all again seems unnecessary punishment.

While he certainly did not strive for the label, Renaissance Man, Professor Said has more than earned it. We honor him today for his achievements in the areas of literary criticism and comparative literature. As in other domains, in his chosen field Professor Said has been prolific, and his corpus has been as deep as it is wide. He began his career at Columbia University in 1963, so this is his fortieth anniversary as a professor there. All those years have been packed with intellectual explosions that only truly creative minds can trigger.

His academic contributions, needless to say, go far beyond literature and literary criticism. He is both a musician and an academic student of music. He is an athlete, but I do not believe he has written yet on athletics. He is a political activist and political analyst, probably frustrated by the fact that so few of those to whom he addresses himself can match his energy or insight.

Let me conclude by saying that we do not give honorary degrees at AUB for courage, but if we did, Edward Said would be its first recipient.

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