June 27, 2009
President Peter Dorman, Trustees and Honored Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is with great pleasure that I accept the honorary degree from one of the best universities in the Middle East, the American University of Beirut.
AUB has been a beacon of educational excellence and a leading institution in the advancement of knowledge in the region. For the past 143 years, it has relentlessly sought to promote freedom of thought and expression, tolerance and respect for diversity of views, creative and critical thinking, scientific rigor and empirical experimentation, personal integrity, civic responsibility, and social leadership. AUB has been successful in upholding these values and ideals for a century and a half. By fostering free thought and open discussion, AUB has placed itself at the heart of an Arab nationalist awakening. It has significantly contributed to the Arab Renaissance and has participated in the making of the regional history. It is, for these reasons, a privilege and an honor to be associated with such a great university.
Since AUB was founded, no less than 75,000 scientists, doctors, engineers, artists and professionals have graduated from the university. The alumni of this great institution have served, and are serving, in prominent positions, in government, business, academia and international institutions throughout the world.
Since 1866, AUB has been in the center of the region as it went through the most critical and dramatic period of its long history. From colonization to liberation, from wars and divisions to peace and reconciliation, from poverty, ignorance and disease to economic growth. Above all, AUB helped to expose the region to modernity. Education is the prime engine of development. AUB has played no small role in bringing change, deepening dialogue, and accelerating transformation through its high educational standards.
Throughout my career, I have endeavored to contribute to Arab economic development. During the last four decades, I have dedicated my time and energy to try to solve the challenging problems of thirst and hunger, unemployment and poverty, disease and illiteracy. Nature is harsh; history has rarely been lenient, and people are always demanding and impatient. But we, in the Arab region, should be proud of the progress made thus far. Lebanon has made considerable advances culturally, politically, and economically. Oman has changed dramatically by reforming its education and modernizing its economy. The rise of the middle class, the empowerment of women, the reduction of poverty, and the growth of industrial exports have been impressive in Tunisia. These are only a few examples of many successes in this region. But despite all that, the road towards greater prosperity and progress is still long.
The ceremony today is taking place at a crucial moment in the history of the region. Lebanon has shown the world how vibrant an Arab democracy can be. Arabs need to show that freedom can flourish in all their countries. This may now be easier to achieve in what appears as the dawning of a promising new era. Peaceful and civilized dialogue between the West and the Arab and Muslim worlds seems to be starting. The legitimacy of basic human rights and national aspirations is being recognized. Human quest for dignity and respect is finally being accepted as universal. From a historical point of view, hope has become reasonable and dialogue constructive. People may no longer need to turn to violence and destruction to be heard.
In the short run, numerous problems still need solutions. We are part of the world and this is still a time of crisis. Through educating leaders, AUB can, and will, play a leading role in realizing our aspirations
We Arabs are proud to be the inheritors of a great culture. We need to mobilize all our energies to accelerate the march of progress. The American University of Beirut has greatly contributed to paving the way for modernity and progress. Its contribution will be needed in the future as much as during the past century and a half.
Thank you for all that and for the honor.