Princess Zahra Aga Khan,
Distinguished guests, faculty, valued members of the AKU community,
And my fellow graduands,
Good evening to you all!
It is a great honour to stand here. I am humbled to represent you all. I must say your families are extremely proud of you. But I also need to draw your attention to the tremendous sense of relief that they all must feel that this day has finally come!
Joking aside, my colleagues from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, the UK, and Pakistan: I’d like to acknowledge that this is not a small moment. Many of us have had to balance their studies with jobs and family responsibilities. We have all had long coffee-fueled nights struggling through various articles. And at times we also had to wrestle with technology — or was that just a good excuse to postpone our assignments? But I digress.
We also had to wrestle with the virus, or could it be that, ultimately, it inspired us? Yes, Covid-19, over the past several years has tested us. But I’d like to affirm today that we passed the test with flying colours. Teachers learnt new software to teach children, nurses fought for ventilators, doctors worked relentlessly to save one more life. This is how we created history! Hence, today is a day to stand tall, embrace our beautiful regalia and share our smiles.
Now, over the last few years, people have asked me: Shazma, what sets AKU apart? For me, it is the community that sets us apart. Friends and lecturers who have become our family, who have wiped away our tears at all times of day and night.
But what does it mean to be a part of this AKU community? Well, let me tell you, AKU as a family consists of students, faculty, staff, and alumni who uphold the AKU values and dedicate their lives to address real-life problems, from climate change to non-communicable diseases. We are at the forefront of so many different fields, contributing relevant research and providing accessible services of high-quality standards. We are the leaders, we are the agents of change, embracing pluralism, making productive contributions to society and passing on the torch of knowledge to others.
But remember: leadership comes with many demands and responsibilities. Understanding our context, its people, and their culture. Identifying areas of growth, introducing change, and managing change with care and compassion. These are the skills that AKU has equipped us with, along with the ethical framework necessary to serve the greater good for everyone within our communities.
Dear colleagues, we are well-equipped to become the best in our fields, to contribute to making the world a better place, and to leave a mark on the world. But, today, I challenge all of us to strive for excellence no matter what we do. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr.
“When you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. Don’t just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn’t do it any better.”
In the end, I would like to deliver my sincere gratitude to Almighty God for His infinite blessings, to our families for being our rock, to our faculty for paving the way for us, and to our Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan for his transformative vision!
Dear friends, I wish you all the best of luck on your new journey. Wherever you go, go with all your heart.
Congratulations Class of 2022 – we all did it!
Mian Arsam Haroon
His Highness the Aga Khan,
Princess Zahra Aga Khan,
Distinguished faculty and university leadership,
Family, friends, and loved ones,
I am honored to be standing in front of you today, welcoming you on behalf of the Aga Khan University Class of 2022. Graduands, I am tremendously grateful to be speaking to you as your valedictorian as we prepare to unfurl our wings and take to the skies.
Time is a funny thing. The minutes, the hours, the days are numbered, standardized and seemingly straightforward. But time's effect on us is tricky. Five minutes during a lecture can feel like an eon, while five years can pass by in the blink of an eye. To have time make a little more sense, you flip through the pages of the book that is your life, and come across many bookmarks. You stop at your favorite trip, the day you received your university acceptance letter, the first time you fell in love, and the moment you graduate.
It is time to turn to the next page. There is now, more than ever, an urgency to act. In a world more connected than ever before, changing in a heartbeat, with ever-increasing problems to tackle, we must make informed decisions as to how we can help our communities to prosper. In my classmates, I see brilliant physicians, nurses, scientists, journalists, and teachers, and in every single one – a leader.
A few weeks ago, I told my mother that I would be giving the valedictory address. I asked her what she thought I should speak about. She told me about a children's tale – the story of a kernel of wheat. It starts off with the sowing of a seed deep into nutritious soil. Packed deep into moist ground, it is watered and fertilized for days and days – the sun beating down on it. One day, there is a tiny, precious sprout. As it is nourished and tended, the sprout grows and grows. It becomes a tall stalk, gleaming and glistening – taking on the same golden hue that the sun lavished upon it. The stalk gives forth a bounty of kernels, forged from its mettle and dedication, through deluge and drought.
Then comes the harvest. The thresher separates the kernel from all it has ever known, and thrusts it into the unknown. The kernel strives to make sense of where it is and where it will go. Soon enough, it realizes its destiny is to nourish life, as the kernel once was nourished itself.
You and I are not so different from this kernel. We are now being separated from the comfort of our guardians' embrace and protection, and from the safety and sanctuary offered to us by this university that has molded us into bold thinkers and zealous doers. But just like the kernel, we too are anxious and excited about what is yet to come.
It is time to utilize this impetus and set out into the unknown. Transform into action the knowledge you have received in the halls of this university and honor the commitment of the village that raised you to fuel the generations that will follow in your footsteps.
My fellow graduands, you are here today amongst many individuals. Sitting on either side of you are your peers. To them, gratitude is due for the innumerable occasions they reminded you of your potential, and the midnights they stayed up listening to your chatter without end. Sitting in front of you are your mentors. To them, gratitude is due for being your guiding stars when you needed the path to be lit up. Behind you are your families and your loved ones, without whom being here would not be possible and would not be so meaningful.
But each and every one of us here has more people cheering for us than we can imagine. For me, it is the guard who greeted me every day, making sure I started my day with a smile. It's the uncle at the cafeteria who made sure to serve me a hefty helping, knowing I love my beans. It's also the staff who worked tirelessly in the offices scheduling out each and every single day of ours in this university. And of course, it is the Chancellor, whose vision and direction guides you and me to bring forth the best in ourselves. On behalf of the class of 2022, thank you.
My fellow graduands, each one of us here is part of the legacy of the Aga Khan University. You are not just part of your college, your school, or your institute, but of a university that is spread over continents, and remains steadfast in its pledge of making our world a better place for everyone. As you step out today, in your hand will be a sheet of paper, but in your mind the wisdom of generations and in your heart a passion that shines brighter than the stars. Together, let's light up the world.
Thank you and congratulations!