Mr. President, honorable trustees, your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen: In 1955 I left the Faculty of Law and the Institut d'Etudes Politiques in Paris to participate in the first Afro-Asian Students Conference in Bandung. I never went back to take my final examinations.
In the course of these long years, I have traveled the world far and wide, on behalf of the national government of my country, in the name of the League of Arab States, and for the United Nations. Throughout I have served one objective only, I believe: the promotion of cooperation and understanding between men, at times between nations across national borders, and at other times between neighbors turned enemies within the same country.
I have been fortunate to meet great men and women, and I have gained much by being exposed to their knowledge, to their culture, to their wisdom, and to their experience.
I have come close to much suffering and despair and seen at very close range man at his worst: selfish, greedy, cowardly, and cruel. But I saw, also, man at his best: selfless, generous, and courageous.
But it is my experience that hope will always prevail and that the human spirit is never defeated.
For a relatively brief period of time I was fortunate to serve the people of Lebanon. Those were difficult and painful days for them, and we are all so happy that those days are gone, never to come back again.
Today, as always, it is so very good to be back in Beirut, and it is such an honor, such a privilege to stand here before so many friends, to receive this, the first university degree I have been awarded, and I am immensely proud to receive it from the American University of Beirut.
To say that this University is universally respected and admired all over the Arab world and beyond would be to state the obvious.
Beirut, Lebanon, and the whole region will forever be grateful to the men of vision who came from America in the nineteenth century to establish the AUB. And we are equally grateful to the men and women American and Arabs who, generation after generation, until Dr. Waterbury and his colleagues, maintained the very high standards of excellence established so long ago and preserved even during the turbulent years in Lebanon's recent history.
AUB is an unequalled center of learning in this part of the world, and it has produced leaders in every field and in every country in this region. In Afghanistan, from where I have come to you this time, I see often AUB alumni who are ministers, professors, or businessmen, and you will be pleased to know that they are in the process of setting up a new chapter of AUB graduates in Kabul.
that America is still out there for us. In and through the AUB, we see the America we want more of over here, in our midst. And the America we want to go to, over there, in the United States.
In thanking AUB for this great honor, allow me to say how privileged I feel and also how humbled to be associated in this ceremony with this highly distinguished group of people, who have achieved such prominent positions of leadership in their respective fields of activity. I have followed the work of some from afar, and I am privileged to call others my friends, but I have, like all of you indeed like millions of others in this region and elsewhere in the world profound respect and admiration for Helen Thomas, Hasib Sabbagh, Edward Said, Amin Maalouf, and Carlos Ghosn.
I thank you.