AUP’s graduation ceremony on May 24, 2016, at the Théâtre du Châtelet, was an especially reflective affair. In the midst of celebration, there was a sense that our graduates’ training as global explorers would be especially necessary in our uncertain times. The ceremony itself served as a call to arms against indifference, for as President Celeste Schenck noted, “Your generation’s potential to reshape the contours of the world is boundless.”
Bertram (Bertie) Lubner, philanthropist and humanitarian, sadly passed before he was able to receive his Honorary Degree. While accepting this honor on his behalf, his son Mark Lubner, and his granddaughter, Takara Lubner (Class of 2014) served as moving examples of how Bertie’s efforts to improve the lives of the least-privileged had permeated into his family. Mark is now the head of the family-run organization MaAfrika Tikkun—deriving its name from the Jewish concept of “tikkun olam” or “engaging in acts of kindness to repair or perfect the world”—and Takara created AUP Cares, now an umbrella organization for all on-campus social entrepreneurship, philanthropic, and volunteer activities. President Schenck explained that, “The Lubner family believes that politics without principles, education without character, science without humanity, commerce without morality, are not only useless, but positively dangerous.” Mark would later share a favorite saying of his father’s: “You make a living by what you earn, but you make a life by what you give.”
During Justice Stephen Breyer’s video interview, our second Honorary Degree recipient discussed how, upon graduating, he’d been unsure as to what to do next. It would be the former Dean of Stanford Law School, Bayless Manning, who would tell him, “When you make decisions, you’ll probably know less than 2% of what you’d like to know. So, you’ll just have to decide, and you’ll see that your life will wrap itself around your decision.”
Ken Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, the third Honorary Degree recipient, and deliverer of the Commencement Address, expressed his belief that we are living in a time when human rights values are increasingly under deliberate attack. Citing the probable cause as worldwide insecurity, he explained, “In such times, there is a tendency to retrench, to seek shelter among those who seem most like you, to shut the gates to others. That instinct provides the platform for the growing voices of hate.” He urged the graduates to accept responsibility for countering these attacks and to reject the assumption that hatred and intolerance are inevitable. He reminded them that communities and political movements often have humble beginnings. “Even if you start with just a few people, there’s a ripple effect. If all of you graduating today do your part, the ripples can become waves, even tides.”
The ceremony ended with two student speakers, both of whom spoke on how AUP’s values help create uniquely global thinkers and scholars. Luljeta Malota, the undergraduate speaker, appealed to her fellow graduates to live in the present. “Whatever is happening, is happening right now. It’s all right now.” The graduate speaker, Habiba Belguedj, urged them to unite. “I challenge you to take the enthusiasm that surrounds us today out into the world with you.” Both wished the graduates joy, along with success.
We heartily congratulate the 2016 AUP graduates and look forward to seeing what future journeys they choose for themselves. We hope that they will continue to make their voices heard in the struggle for human rights and against indifference.
If you were not able to attend Graduation, you can watch the ceremony here: