Haigazian University Commencement Ceremony
Speech for Ms. Costanza Farina, UNESCO Director of the Regional Bureau of Education in the Arab States
Haigazian University: 3 June 2022
Reverend Paul Haidostian,
Faculty Members, Proud Parents, Families
Class of 2022, Congratulations!
First, let me tell you that I am deeply honored and privileged to be here today to join you in your momentous celebration at this prestigious university.
It is really an immense pleasure.
So, I would like to thank Haigazian University for inviting me to speak here today at your commencement ceremony.
Now, let me start with a little personal note: I am your neighbor. My home overlooks the campus, so I can see who eats what and when, who smokes and who does not, and who cheers for which football team (Liverpool or Real Madrid last match of the Champions..), but I can also see the inclusivity and the diversity that you collectively offer. I am also your neighbor in a broader sense, as I am from southern Italy, so we share the Mediterranean. Being a part of a neighborhood means being part of a family, and that means we respect each other values and differences and make sure everyone is included. That is what Haigazian believes in and practices. That is what UNESCO promotes since the first day of its inception.
Inclusivity is key to education as a public good and also to a good neighborhood. For those that may not know, UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. It is a specialized agency within the United Nations system with 193 countries, and these are UNESCO Member States. UNESCO is also the only UN organization with a mandate in Higher Education. We broadly define education as the process of facilitating learning or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits. Today, we celebrate that definition after all of your hard work.
Your time here at Haigazian University has been unique, and I’m sure you have also experienced extraordinary adversity. It was not only a time of rigorous study but has also been marked by a period of unprecedented crises in Lebanon and worldwide.
Education is key to overcoming crises. It provides solutions to many issues, and education makes recovery possible. Education stimulates innovation and creativity, inspires scholarly thought, and enhances the individual and society as a whole. Lebanese writer and poet Khalil Gibran said, “Education sows not seeds in you, but makes your seeds grow.” Your professors have striven to grow the seed of education and knowledge inside you and to realize Haigazian University’s motto of “Truth Freedom Service.” So let me extend my appreciation to them for their dedication and patience.
Each crisis gives us an opportunity for improvement. No education system is perfect; however, what you have acquired here will allow you to be an agent of change for the betterment of society.
Education is something you will possess for life; the skills and knowledge you have acquired at Haigazian University will stay with you forever, positively affect your lives, and give you the ability to change the trajectory of your future.
In an ever-changing labor market, higher education will unlock the doors of opportunity. Keep learning, and play an active role, both locally and globally, so that you become a global citizen with a global mindset. Help the world be more peaceful, tolerant, inclusive, and secure.
UNESCO strongly believes that education, higher education, and lifelong learning are a public good. We support the right to higher education and advocate for inclusive and equitable quality higher education and lifelong learning opportunities for all. We cannot do this alone; it requires the support of countries, organizations, civil society, the private sector, academia, and most importantly you. So if you all share this belief, then you will all leave here as UNESCO Ambassadors.
Lebanon has a strong history in the field of higher education, and Haigazian University has been an integral component of that history for decades. While crises have caused some setbacks, Lebanon is making strides to be again a shining light of knowledge and learning in the region and beyond. You are the key element of that process; you are Lebanon’s greatest asset.
I would like to take this time to thank the parents and families that have believed in you, invested in your future, and possibly even made sacrifices. Their support made it possible, and we should be grateful to them.
Now for the graduates. I would like to pay tribute to your hard work and efforts, which have led you to success and excellence. You have completed a critical chapter, and I wish you the best of luck in the next chapter of your life and hope you all accomplish great things.
Congratulations to the Class of 2022 and to all of the new UNESCO Ambassadors.