American University of Beirut

Majida El Roumi's Acceptance Speech

June 27, 2009 

President Dorman, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:

On this day-a very historic day in my life-all my thoughts lead me to the home where I was brought up, to my family, and to all those who have accompanied me and joined their efforts to work with me since I first started my singing career (through their creativity, their writing, their unshakable faith in me or their support of all my endeavors), to those who are still present by my side, and those who though no longer with me, still live on in my heart and memory. 

To all of them, I dedicate this great honor bestowed upon me by this august university. I extend my profound thanks and my sincere recognition to its revered president, its board of trustees and to all those who took part in nominating me, and honoring me with their trust in what I represent in my art, and in the message that I carry. 

I thank God for the blessing that I am receiving and for each step of my life that brought me to where I am, from the day I was born in beautiful Kfarshima, in the home of a great artist who gave the Orient timeless voices. Those voices who inspired my career and like me, were apprentices of my father, have marked me, teaching me to love with passion authentic art, that is committed to people's issues and causes, and to relish the beauty of poetry and song, and to deeply respect the precious gift of life and nature. 

Very early on, these songs gave me wings to fly. They allowed me to see art from the perspective of sobriety, authenticity, and the ecstasy of the soul. Wherever I sing, this feeling morphs into how I define the meaning of my voice, how I want it to be, and how I believe in it. 

I would not have been awarded this honorary doctorate had I not experienced this world with the most blessed mother, who taught me with her eternal voice the words of Saint Paul: "If I speak with the tongues of men, and of angels, and have not love, I become a resounding gong, or a clanging cymbal." 

I cannot praise heaven enough for blessing me with a father and mother who taught me that I should not be only a voice and a body, but rather a messenger of goodness, truth and love on Earth; that no matter how successful I become, it would have no worth if I did not represent God righteously in this world. Brought up to be grateful for every word I was taught at home. Revering Lebanon after God. Ever since I first sang on the theater stage of my school Saint-Coeur in Hadath, Lebanon remains in my conscience, the Lebanon of great personalities, saints, creators, and thinkers, who left their successful mark throughout the world. Lebanon the crown jewel of Arab culture, the kingdom of great art, the medal of freedom, the Quran of conscience, the Bible of spirit, the heart of Wisdom, the place of encounter of civilizations, cultures and religions. The land of martyrs and missing people whose lives still flow in my blood, whose sovereignty I will defend by accepting with honor to be the enemy of all those who have an agenda to suppress or fragment my country-and those people are too many. But "they" have their own devils and only the hell that they have been able to promise us from the beginning of the war until today, while "we," the Lebanon of peace, defend our land as a beacon in an era of darkness We believe in Beirut, where education entices our brightest youngsters to stay rather than seek their fortune abroad. We cannot afford to lose them; they are our only hope for a future of peace and promise. 

We pledge Lebanon to promote genuine and committed art in a time of artistic banality. We embrace a verdant soil in a barren landscape. 

"We," the Lebanon of hope, will one day claim back that identity from the parasitic mercenaries, with an uncompromising divine fortitude that wants us to live with openness to the world. This has always been our message since the first Phoenician boat sailed from our coasts. 

Tell the princes of darkness that their wars can destroy a period of a people's existence, but they cannot annihilate the nature of a people. Wars cannot defeat the will of the great people of Lebanon, who accepted to die every day of their history to defend a free and independent Lebanon. Such people surely deserve to live in peace, dignity, liberty and surely deserve to be crowned with the eternal glory of the cedars of Lebanon. 

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