Sarineh Rita G. Nersess
Special Education- Senior
Student Speech on Founders’ Day 2021
In Voyage en Orient, in the early 1800s, French poet Alphonse de Lamartine wrote, “The cedars of Lebanon are the relics of centuries and of nature, the most famous natural monuments in the universe. They know the history of the earth, better than history itself”.
The majestic cedar trees, referred to as “The King of Trees” in the Bible, are the oldest trees mentioned in the History of mankind, going as far back as the beginning of written script with the Mesopotamian epic of Gilgamesh, to the Phoenicians, to ancient civilizations of Egypt and Rome, to our modern days. This evergreen tree planted by God is a symbol of strength and eternity given its firm roots and endurance through turbulent periods of history. The cedars of God symbolize resilience, as they stand strong and tall against the storms. They symbolize immortality as they survive for millenniums. The cedars have timelessly represented holiness, peace, hope and spiritual growth. I find this to be true about the founders of our university who in spite of the horrors of the Armenian Genocide, have endured and persevered to this day. As such, the example of the founders of Haigazian resignifies the symbolic power of the cedars.
During its 5000-year history, it is said that Beirut was destroyed and rebuilt seven times. Different empires, that no longer exist today, have ruled our Lebanon. Still, Lebanon has endured the hardships of History and continues to stand strong, as has its Cedar tree. The kings of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, and Greece, even though they have conquered our lands, were not able to destroy our Cedar trees. On the contrary, the kings proudly used its timber to build strong temples and palaces for their empires, ships to explore new lands and new potentials, and shields to resist their enemies. As such, the Cedars are a staple of the Lebanese people’s identity. It offers hope to us, as we try to overcome these challenging times. In 1920, in a text of proclamation of the State of Greater Lebanon, it was said: “an evergreen cedar is like a young nation despite a cruel past. Although oppressed, never conquered, the cedar is its rallying. By the union, it will break all attacks.” This passage is relevant to us today given recent events that we all witnessed, including the October 2019 movements and the August 4th explosion. In spite of it all, we are resilient, we are enduring and we are persevering. We, as the youth, are the cedars of our homeland and we have no right to give up hope. Despite the corruption and oppression, we have shown the world, through our union, that we are capable of making changes.
On Founders’ Day, we celebrate the foundation, continuity and perseverance of our Alma mater. We also celebrate the founders of our university, who persevered and resisted the challenges faced, and built our university that continues to stand strong and tall despite the current hardships. Our small community reminds me of the Cedars of God, as we continue to hope for a better tomorrow, to show up, remain firm and push through the challenges and adversities that we are facing today. We are a community of resilient, determined, strong and hopeful citizens, who refuse to give up and choose to live up to the values of truth, freedom and service. And to you I say, remember your roots, and learn from your past. Be like the Cedars, beautiful, firm and resilient. Be like our University’s founders persevering through adversity.