Winter 2008 Vol. VI, No. 2
In His own Words
The goals of a presidency and the events that have defined a country, a university, and the lives of its graduates.
Freedom of Expression
Institutional Integrity at AUB
Opening Ceremony, 2003
Institutional values, like personal ethics, are not easy. They do not come instinctively. It is because they are difficult that we respect and glorify them. Here as elsewhere what is easiest is to try to beat the system, to cut corners, and to cheat and deceive. To resist such temptations is not only difficult but it may put you at a disadvantage vis à vis those with whom you compete. If all of this were easy, places like AUB would not have to exist.
Respect and Tolerance for Others
Founders Day, 2003
As centers of learning, universities must set high standards for their students, faculty, and employees. The standards of conduct we seek to inculcate in all members of the AUB community, but above all, our students, we hope will guide us all in our participation in society in the broader sense. No one expressed our fundamental commitment better than the Reverend Daniel Bliss:
“This college is for all conditions and classes of men without regard to color, nationality, race or religion. A man, white, black, or yellow, Christian, Jew, Mohammedan or heathen, may enter and enjoy all the advantages of this institution for three, four or eight years; and go out believing in one God, in many gods, or in no God. But it will be impossible for anyone to continue with us long without knowing what we believe to be the truth and the reasons for that belief.”
With the passage of over a century since Daniel Bliss spoke those words, we may forgive him his unisex view of AUB; after all it was not yet 1922 when AUB became a coeducational university. Other than that omission, I can in no way improve on Daniel Bliss’s commitment to tolerance combined with moral guidance.
Change and Renewal
State of the University, 2004
My predecessor, President Robert Haddad, said the following at Commencement in 1996: “… a campus on which research and free intellectual inquiry prevail is characterized by a certain hum; during the evenings and nights, even over weekends and holidays faculty and students, laboratories and offices are never quite still.”
My sense is that there is a definite hum at AUB. Progress has been made in every part of this University. Change has occurred in every part of this University. We have left the bad days of the civil war far behind us. The stalwart university citizens who saw us through that long and taxing period are still mainly with us. Rather than rest on their laurels of service and sacrifice, they have not only accepted change and the quest for renewed excellence, they have led the charge. To these citizens we have added new blood. Universities must continuously be renewed, and we are doing that.
Tragedy and Hope
This year… is a year of tragedy and a year of hope. The size of the tragedy has set the dimensions of our hopes. Two men have been lost to us under terrible circumstances. Rafic Hariri, businessman, prime minister, and trustee of this University gave his life for you. Let me repeat: he gave his life for you. For decades he knew that you and all young Lebanese are the future of this country, and he used his considerable resources to help give you the capabilities of serving Lebanon and the region. Then, his mission unaccomplished, he gave his life.
Basil Fuleihan died with him. Basil was the kind of young, energetic, multi-faceted talent that Rafic Hariri had sought to nurture. He was, not so many years ago, a graduate of AUB like you. He became a promising academic, a World Bank expert, and then returned to serve his country. He was the first of the generation that lived through but did not participate in the civil war to rise to a position of significant responsibility. He was the future. Look at him. Copy him. He was what you all can be or can try to be.
After the July War
Opening Ceremony, 2006
Last June 24, in my introduction to the ceremony for awarding honorary doctorates, I said the following:
“Our honorees remind us of lasting values, human will, the rewards of perseverance, and, perhaps above all, the virtue of patience coupled with determination. They teach us how to keep moving when the ground is shaking beneath our feet.” I had no idea at that time just how violently the ground would shake in a few short weeks; I had no idea how powerfully the situation after July 12 would demand our perseverance, patience, and determination. I did not anticipate how the crisis would call forth our humanity toward our colleagues and friends within the AUB family, but even more so toward our fellow citizens whose lives were turned up side down, and too often ended, by the events following July 12. AUB is nearly 140 years old. Is anyone surprised that we rose to this occasion as we have to all others preceding it?
Today, despite the events of the summer, despite our doubts and fears about the near future, 7,202 students have registered at AUB. Nine hundred eighty-four are graduate students while the rest are undergraduates, including 480 freshmen. Twenty percent of the undergraduates are non Lebanese. These students are in our hands. They will build someone’s future. I hope it will be Lebanon’s and the region’s. But the important point is that we at AUB, and in all institutions of learning and training, are the force for the future. It is a lofty task, a mission more sacred than ever, a challenge that we, the faculty and staff, should accept with joy and with humility. And if there are students here among us today, I say to you, don’t let us fail you.
Going Outside AUB’s Walls
Opening Ceremony, 2007
It will come as no surprise that universities have a big impact on the neighborhoods or even the regions in which they are located.… The goal for all of us should be a neighborhood where people of all sects and different levels of income can live together in peace if not in harmony, and where all inhabitants can enjoy and contribute to the cultural and intellectual life that all these educational institutions create. I have always marveled at the Corniche just outside our gates. Here we find Beirutis, men and women, children and grandparents, all income levels, the religiously conservative to the religiously indifferent, sharing the sea, the air and one another. That is or was the spirit of Ras Beirut, and AUB has an obligation to nurture that spirit. It is an obligation we should accept willingly and gladly.