“Can a nation be built without its youth?” asked the President of Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU), Fr. Bechara Khoury, in the conclusion of his speech at the 2022 Commencement Ceremony.
On Friday, June 17, the University celebrated the graduating Class of 2022, a celebration born of perseverance through hardships, an admirable stubbornness and determination to reach this turning point in the graduates’ lives.
In attendance were His Excellency President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun; His Excellency Speaker of the Parliament, Mr. Nabih Berri; His Excellency Prime Minister Najib Mikati, represented by His Excellency Minister of Education and Higher Education in Lebanon, Mr. Abbas Halabi; His Excellency Amin Gemayel, Former President of the Republic of Lebanon, his spouse, and respected family; His Beatitude Cardinal Bechara Boutros El Rai, Founder of NDU, represented by Archbishop Habib Chamieh; His Eminence Most Reverend Metropolitan of Jbeil and Batroun Bishop Selwan Moussa, represented by Archimandrite Antonios Al-Bitar; His Eminence Sheikh Ali Al-Khatib, Deputy Head of the Higher Islamic Shiite Council represented by Sheikh Mohammed Mchaimekh; Most Reverend Abbot Pierre Najem, Superior General of The Maronite Order of The Blessed Virgin Mary and President of the Supreme Council of NDU and Governing Council of the Maronite Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary; His Excellency Mr. Ziyad Baroud, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees (BoT) at NDU and BoT members; in addition to several political, military, religious, diplomatic, and academic figures and their representatives.
Following the procession of the students to their respective seats, with the Faculty members bearing the colors of their alma maters, the NDU Choir, led by Fr. Khalil Rahme, kicked off the revelries with the National Anthem. His Eminence Fr. Najem gave the opening prayer, a moving word of gratitude to God and the intercession of Our Lady, Patron of NDU. He ended the prayer with a supplication to the Lord that we as a university and community continuously follow the model of the Blessed Mother in her unceasing devotion to the Holy Trinity in heaven, that we may grow in virtue and holiness. The NDU Choir then sang the Hymn of Jubilee, thus concluding the prayer.
The Master of Ceremony was Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA), Dr. Michel El Hayek, moderating every step of the graduation. Fr. Khoury was introduced, his word anticipated and exceeding expectations, beginning with an assertive statement: “We always look forward and upward, refusing to stand upon ruins and reminisce the glories of the past.” He addressed the concerning state of the country, emphasizing that although the urge to emigrate is warranted, the graduating Class must not treat their degrees as passports or visas, “but rather as bridges towards further knowledge, and sure proof that they are capable of removing the stone weighing upon Lebanon’s chest. Their contributions and aspirations are vital to the building of a new nation, free of all that is polluting it.”
The President Reverend exhorted the graduates: “Do not fear anyone, do not depend on anyone. Just as you reached this day through your own efforts, continue to depend on yourselves. Keep fighting, as the day will come when the nation will depend on you, as will your fathers and mothers will depend on you; those parents who worked tirelessly so that you may follow the right path, be producers and not consumers, true men and women, and not imitations of men and women.”
The podium then welcomed this year’s valedictorian, Nicolas Marwan Maamary, graduating with a 4.0 GPA in Civil Engineering. Nicolas’ speech started with a sincere and heartfelt message to the professors, who “played a pivotal role in molding our personality and character, and without you, we would not have made it to this point in life.” To the parents in the audience, he thanked them for the “sweat and tears you have poured. Our success is yours, and we promise to always make you the proudest.” Addressing his fellow graduates, he commends their “indomitable spirit,” which “will make you achieve the impossible.” Nicolas’ message of hope concluded with a reminder: “Graduation is called a commencement for a reason. It is not the end, but the beginning.” The valedictorian, for his academic excellence, was rewarded both the General Khalil Kanaan Award, presented by BoT Member, Ms. Mona Kanaan, and the Sarmad Rihani Award.
Next was Guest Speaker Mr. Eddé, Co-Founder of Murex and President of the MIM Museum, whose speech was rigorous and inspiring, relaying the obstacles he faced amidst the Civil War, and his extensive trials that led him to his success. In light of these experiences, he presented these words to the Class of 2022: “Some of you will stay in the country to pursue further education and careers in your fields. Others will do so abroad, and perhaps remain there. Regardless, never despair of what you can do for your country, even if presently it does not appear viable.”
Mr. Eddé continued, “I studied and worked abroad for a long time, and not once did I forgo asking myself: ‘How can I help Lebanon today?’” With that, he congratulated the graduates, wishing them the best of luck, and leaving them with a final appeal: “It is our country, and it is up to us to change it for the better.”
The Guest Speaker was then given a trophy as a token of reverence, a stone carved with the face of the Virgin Mary, the emblem of the University’s pursuit of Gaudium de Veritate, the joy of truth.
The highlight of the evening finally arrived: Registrar, Ms. Mirna Nehme, oversaw the conferring of degrees, the long-awaited moment where the students were able to cross the finish line, now graduates and alumni of NDU. The roaring of the audience and of each Faculty showed the renewed energy of the Campus, its spirit exhilarating and effervescent.
There it was: the tassels shifted from left to right. On the count of three, caps were thrown in a fit of joy and hope. The recession was accompanied by cheers, photographs immortalized memories, and a toast was given all around.