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Graduation 2017

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On May 23, 2017, AUP’s commencement found a new home in the Théâtre de Paris as the Théâtre du Châtelet undergoes renovations. “We’re all here to celebrate you because you’ve made it!” began Master of Ceremonies and Vice President of Security Operations and Student Services, Marc Monthéard. The ceremony did indeed laud our students’ accomplishments, while also serving as a time to honor AUP’s tradition of global explorers who cross cultural and national boundaries as they pursue their life’s path.

Interim Provost Marcia Grant revealed that over her year-long term at AUP, her only regret was her inability to know more of the students. “It’s so important to have people like you, who don’t see boundaries, who reach across to other cultures, and who see the world from a cooperative perspective—we’ll need your help and leadership in the future.” She also advised the graduates to trust themselves. “I began the best career of my life when I was 60, to work in universities around the world. Take your time; whatever you do will add up.” This emphasis on globally-minded community service continued with the awarding of the first annual Lubner Family Philanthropy Award to Jasmine Paul, future Vice President of the Student Government Association (SGA) and tireless champion for volunteer and outreach, as well as the Distinguished Alumna Award to Davina Durgana (’12), who has dedicated her career to eradicating global human trafficking.

AUP awarded Honorary Degrees to Sultan Al Qassemi (’89) and Her Excellency Huda Ebrahim Alkhamis (’83)—who after receiving her degree proudly told the graduates, “Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot do it!”—and the Presidential Medal for Distinguished Service to former board member and long-time supporter Olivia de Havilland. Ambassador Nicholas Burns, also an Honorary Degree recipient, then took the stage to deliver the commencement address. He spoke about his daughter Sarah Burns (’05), who had a transformative experience at AUP. “As AUP parents we really came to respect this institution and understand its place in the world. You’re a global university. There aren’t many like you and so you have a special mission.” He reminded AUP of its role as the permanent link between the American and French peoples in France. “Our embassies and consulates are very important for forming tight relations between governments, but it’s often our private institutions that find ways to have the deepest connections between countries.” In reflecting on the question central to our AUP mission of how to transcend the bounds of narrow nationalism, Ambassador Burns reminded the graduates that not only was this the question of their generation, it was one they were already answering. “In addition to French and English, you speak 86 languages. You’re from 110 countries. You are the perfect expression of our globalized world.” He concluded with this piece of advice: “Have the courage to get into the arena. Make a difference for our world, make it more just, more secure, more peaceful. Because all of us here today are depending on you and we’re looking forward to seeing all that you accomplish as you live and write the history of our world.”

These sentiments were expanded upon with the day’s final speeches from the undergraduate and graduate speakers, Keti Archaia and Kristal Kramer. After recalling the unique educational opportunities, which they had all been privileged enough to enjoy, Keti spoke on the 2015 terrorist attacks and the untimely death of AUP freshman Nutsa Makhviladze. “The way that we stood through it all cannot be forgotten.” Kristal cited an article entitled 7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose by Mark Manson as her inspiration. ‘The concept of a life purpose will haunt you forever and that’s really intense.” She described this journey as being a deeply personal one and urged her classmates to invent a future that was all their own. “Do something. Anything is fine as long as you do something that you care about, that excites and inspires you to look beyond yourself and your place in the world.” Or as Keti put it in her final word to the graduates: “Let’s change the world.”