Sana Sabbagh, reading the speech of her critically ill father, who attended the ceremony in a wheel chair:
It is with deep gratitude that I participate in today's special event. Thank you for bestowing upon me such an honor, and with such distinguished company. I also thank the good Lord for this blessing.
I started my life journey in 1948 as a Palestinian refugee. I had two passports then, which enabled me to achieve and to build my life. The Lebanese passport and my AUB passport, a degree in civil engineering. Throughout my life, I have remained grateful to both: Lebanon, as my adoptive country, and AUB, my Alma Mater.
As I was building physical bridges, I found myself inevitably building in parallel, bridges of understanding between peoples of different religions and different political persuasions both in the Middle East and the world at large.
In the post 9/11 era, a new world order emerged. A world dominated by political and cultural distortions. A climate where human dignity and the value of human life is a non issue. We have all felt this malaise. More than ever, the need to engage in a constructive dialogue between East and West is an imperative. The American University of Beirut is uniquely positioned to contribute towards this endeavor.
The American University of Beirut has been more than a crossroad for the Arab world, where successive generations formed a lasting bond, while growing in maturity and leadership. It has been a forum for freedom of thought, freedom of speech, and freedom of belief. Through AUB, a regional and international network of professionals was formed.
This network impacted my life in an unexpected way.
I started my journey of recovery from a severe stroke exactly a year ago. I was swimming in a pool in the Bahamas, when I lost consciousness. I woke up a few days later in a hospital room, with several tubes inserted in different parts of my body
My life had been saved, because my daughter Sana was able to identify a former AUH doctor who lived in Miami, and who immediately arranged for me to be transferred to a Miami hospital, where a brilliant neurosurgeon, who also attended the AUB Medical School, performed surgery on me. This was possible only because of the medical directory of AUB alumni in the United States. I am sharing this with you today, because I am eternally grateful to these great men: the first because he acted out of loyalty to AUB, and the second for the medical skills that he acquired at AUB.
For several months I could not engage in any activity. Then I began a rather intensive rehabilitation program. It has been a daily struggle. As in 1948, I need faith, determination, and perseverance to succeed. As in 1948, the theme of my life is still conquering obstacles against all odds. Achieving the impossible. I believe that I shall walk again. I believe that I shall speak again. As in 1948, I am still motivated by helping others, and I remain committed to promoting the welfare and the interests of our people.