“It is the best of times; it is the worst of times."
My heart-felt congratulations go out to each and every one of you!
In my address to FAFS' 2020 graduates, I told them that they were leaving AUB at the worst of times. This year, I will tell you, the class of 2021, that this is both the “best of times" and the “worst of times".
In his highly acclaimed novel “A Tale of Two Cities", Charles Dickens, describes the period of the French Revolution as “The season of light", yet “the season of darkness"; an era that was “the best of times" and yet, “the worst of times". In a superlative degree of comparison, we are living today in a terrifyingly nuanced Lebanon, where oppressed people are fighting the good fight, during a pivotal time for the country. You are leaving AUB during what was defined by the World Bank as one of the top three economic crises since the mid-19th century. Thus, making it the “worst of times." Yet, it is also “the best of times", because you are leaving AUB with the right tools to help you win the “good fight". You are beginning your journey as young professionals who are equipped with the experiences that have shaped this past year:
- A pandemic that has helped slow the pace of life and reintroduced the significance of family, friendship, and neighbors.
- A time of financial collapse that has taught us to appreciate the little things in life, and that becoming one another's support, even in small ways, can make a big difference.
- A time of destruction, that has proven there is hope in solidarity, humanity, and kindness.
You are graduating at a time when, in addition to our local challenges, the region and the world are also facing climate, environmental, food, water, and health challenges. It is a time when you, as AUB agricultural and food sciences graduates, can make the biggest difference to the livelihoods of Lebanon's communities and to the world at large.
Interacting with you during the past few years brought me to realize that you are the hope that will turn this country around. With all the adversity around us, you leave AUB today equipped with the tools to bring a new dawn; a new era in which you will lay the groundwork for a better and healthier earth, healthier food, and healthier people. Most importantly, you leave AUB with integrity, a sense of equity, excellence, interdisciplinarity, respect, professionalism, and community involvement. Since its establishment, these values, instilled and strengthened by FAFS and AUB, are grounded in our land grant mission of community service.
So yes, these may seem to be dark times, but today we celebrate you loudly and with great pride. You have navigated these times and arrived at a moment of hope and light.
I also celebrate your parents, guardians, and friends. Those who, throughout your journey, have been the solid rocks, the cheerleaders, the supporters behind the scenes without whose encouragement, patience, and sacrifice this milestone achievement would not have been possible to achieve.
Today, you graduate from being students; you join the ranks of FAFS alumni and commence your journey as the Faculty's ambassadors on its mission to make this country, and indeed the world, a more sustainable, safer, and healthier place.
I am confident that your experience at FAFS has prepared you well for your future career paths. It has been a pleasure having you with us, and I hope you valued and have enjoyed the journey: we are proud of your success.
Class of 2021, you have succeeded through the hardest of times; may each of you fare well in your future endeavors.. I trust that your AUB and FAFS education will help you rise to every occasion you encounter.
Stay in touch, we'll leave the lights on for when you decide to come visit; we look forward to hearing your news and your stories of success.
Know that we will always remember you with great affection and admiration. FAFS will always be your second home – a home away from home!