Global Valedictorian

Adnan Ali Khan​

His Highness the Aga Khan, 
Princess Zahra Aga Khan, 
Leaders of the University, 
Distinguished guests, family, friends, and my fellow graduates: 

Good afternoon. My name is Adnan Ali Khan and I am grateful and honoured to welcome you on behalf of the Aga Khan University, Class of 2021. A class of physicians, dental hygienists, nurses, educators, and journalists – or in other words, future leaders, pioneers, and trailblazers. Congratulations to each and every one of you for chasing your dreams to this destination. 

AKU has given us a multitude of opportunities to flourish in all aspects of our lives. We have been trained and pushed to achieve goals far beyond our expectations.

There have been opportunities to grow, inspire, and to be inspired. It is being in the company of other passionate, ambitious, and talented students, as well as following in the footsteps of many inspiring alumni, that empowers AKU graduands to strive for excellence.

Reflecting on my medical school journey has made me grateful for the memories I have made and the lessons I have learned – from lifelong friendships with fellow students, residents, and nurses forged through classes, clinics, and long night calls, to chai breaks with mentors that have helped shape me into who I am today, and will continue to influence who I am yet to become. 

At AKU, there is always an emphasis on the academic side of our profession, but there was equal importance placed on being a humanitarian. Each programme here today has made unique efforts in shaping the world into a better place through service to their community.

I would be remiss to not mention the elephant in the room: COVID. The reason we’re sitting far apart, masked up, and our family and loved ones joining us virtually instead of being by our sides, cheering us on as they’ve been doing for the last few years. We owe our faculty and administration, who made sure we are ready to face this new reality. We owe the unsung heroes who spent hours helping us follow COVID protocols, testing us weekly to make sure we remained negative on paper and positive in our attitudes.

During the pandemic, our student experiences may have to have been socially distanced, but whether it was community-based volunteer camp, an academic research-society or AKU’s own student mentorship program, “Synergy”, COVID didn't stop any of us from reaching out and doing what we do best. Rather, it changed us – motivated us – to volunteer more, to innovate in research, and most importantly, it reminded this community that even students can and do make a difference.

We learned one of the most important skills you can’t be taught in a classroom: the ability to adapt, to pick ourselves up when we’re battered and bruised and use that experience to become wiser and more agile than ever.

With this in mind, I can safely say that this class of AKU graduates will be one of the most tenacious, resilient, and open-minded groups of professionals to come from this institution. I think I speak for my entire class when I say this: we are ready.

To our Chancellor, His Highness, faculty, family members, and everyone who gave us their unwavering support in our journey here: I cannot thank you enough.

On that note, it’s time for this class to look ahead to what’s next in life, after we step away from these familiar halls.  

As a fellow graduate of the Class of 2021, I can promise you the following three things: 

Firstly: You are joining one of the strongest alumni communities in the world. A global family sprawled across six continents and 55 countries that will open its arms for you in your time of need – one that has embraced my classmates and myself, irrespective of distance, nationality, or religion. Many of these alumni are our personal heroes, and some of our greatest inspirations returned back to this institution so that they may pass the torch to us. Remember, today, you are not just Aga Khan University graduates of Pakistan, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, or London. Today, you are global graduates.

Secondly: You will be a leader in whatever you choose to do, and you will thrive. I know this because you have all succeeded thus far to be here on this momentous day – and that in and of itself is an act of courage.

Thirdly, and finally, I can promise you this: you will change someone's life. In fact, many of you already have – not just those who scrubbed in way past midnight in surgery, or their clinical partner who chose the right music in the operating room, but each and every one of you, just by virtue of being on this path, has made the world a better place. You have all chosen a career to give back to humanity and provide meaningful contributions to society first and foremost.

I believe I speak on behalf of my fellow graduates when I say that we are filled with excitement for the rest of our journeys. And whatever path we may end up on, we know that AKU has prepared us to take on the next challenge – with agility, perseverance, and courage as a part of who we are.

Thank you, and congratulations once again.