Lebanese graduate's inspirational commencement speech goes viral – Arab News
DUBAI: A moving and inspirational speech given by a Lebanese student at an American University of Beirut graduation ceremony, in which he paid tribute to his “poor and hardworking” parents and the sacrifices they made to ensure he received an education, is going viral on social media.
Elie El-Khawand, a 21-year-old student of electrical and computer engineering, was among those who graduated from the university on June 11. He was chosen to give the commencement speech after responding to an email from AUB authorities that invited students to apply for the honor.
“My belief was that a word from the heart would reach a wider audience,” El-Khawand told Arab News on Thursday when asked what motivated him to give the speech.
His heartwarming words and genuine sentiments impressed and moved the thousands of people in the audience at the graduation ceremony and in the past few days video of the speech, initially shared by fellow graduates and their friends and families, has started to go viral on social media platforms.
In his speech, El-Khawand spoke about the harsh and tough journey of his parents and their struggles to raise him and ensure he received a quality education.
He began by saying that he would not give in to the financial crisis currently affecting Lebanon and was “following my heart and shooting for the stars.”
He told the crowd: “I want to share with you who I really am. Eleven years into their marriage, a janitor and his housekeeper wife, who had lost hope of having children, welcomed their first, newborn son.
“This baby, me, brought them joy…,” he said, and was forced to pause for several seconds as the audience burst into applause and cheering, before continuing: ‘… and ignited their sense of purpose — at least, that’s what they told me.”
Speaking with obvious pride, El-Khawand said: “From dawn to dusk my mother carried me along with her broom and mop as she cleaned houses in the neighborhood. My father worked as a janitor at an esteemed nearby school, which I got into and pursued my education for free.”
He spoke about how as he grew up he became aware of his family’s situation in life but that despite the fact his parents were poor, they “could provide him with an abundance of love and comfort.”
Addressing fellow students from a similar social background, El-Khawand added: “You never know how the dots will eventually connect down the road. Have the confidence to follow your heart and never be afraid to take a first step.”
To illustrate his point, he revealed the challenge he faced when he realized that he might not be able to afford to attend university as his family often struggled to pay for daily necessities.
“I enrolled at AUB with an absolutely unclear payment plan,” he said but added that he eventually “received decent financial aid and scholarships from AUB. I won the 30,000 A List competition and worked as a part-time student tutor.”
Asked by Arab News how proud he felt of his parents as he looked out at them from the podium as he delivered his speech, El-Khawand said: “I’m not going to lie, I couldn’t find them in the crowd.”
As for the incredible reception to his heartfelt words on the day and as they spread online, he admitted he had not expected such an emotional and positive response from the public.
“To be honest, not to that extent,” he said. “I was astonished by the thousands of messages and comments, especially those conveying to me that they had needed to hear the words of my speech.”
One of those who shared video footage of El-Khawand’s speech was Lebanese media personality Ricardo Karam, whose post on Twitter received more than 7,000 likes and was retweeted more than 1,100 times. Al Jazeera TV and other regional and local TV channels and news outlets have also reported on the speech and broadcast parts of it.
LONDON: Egypt has finished in first place at the 2022 Arab Open Robotics Championship held in Sharm El Sheikh on Monday.
Since 2008, the Arab Open Robotics Championship has been the largest regional robotics tournament held in the Arab world.
The tournament was organized by the Ministries of Youth and Sports, Communications and Information Technology, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, and the Egyptian Federation of Electronic Games.
The tournament included over 650 students ranging in age from four years to the end of the university stage.
The participants represented 136 teams from 12 Arab countries: Egypt, Kuwait, the UAE, Oman, Yemen, Qatar, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Iraq, and Libya.
The Arab Robotics Association accredited 100 juries to judge the tournament’s nine robot competitions.
Egypt came first, winning seven trophies. Jordan finished second with two trophies, followed by Iraq, Libya and Qatar in third place.
In addition, the tournament hosted a lively forum for Arab youth on the sidelines.
The tournament aims to improve participants’ skills in engineering sciences, electronics, programming, and artificial intelligence, the Qatar News Agency reported.
It also aims to foster a creative spirit among robotics participants while highlighting the abilities of those interested in science, engineering, technology, and mathematics.
LONDON: Blackburn Rovers will once again be opening their doors to the Muslim community to host the Eid-Al-Adha prayer on Saturday.
Rovers became the first football club in the UK to host the Eid Al-Fitr prayers in May, which marked the end of Ramadan.
The event will begin at 9.30 a.m. local time at Ewood Park. More than 3,000 people are expected to attend the event.
“Eid @ Ewood Park” is open to all ages, with facilities for both men and women to pray on the pitch.
There will also be free on-site parking and a complimentary bus service. The event is supported by “Eid in the Park,” a three-day festival held in four different locations across the UK.
As such, the event will follow Saudi Arabia for moonsighting.
YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia: Concerned about how Indonesian students with hearing impairments often miss out on religious education, cleric Abdul Kahfi founded an Islamic boarding school to help them study and recite scripture from the Qur’an using sign language.
Opened in 2019 in the city of Yogyakarta in central Java, the Darul A’shom school now has 12 staff and teaches 115 students aged between seven and 28 years from across the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country.
Abdul hopes the school will make it easier for future generations to learn about Islam.
“Nowadays hearing-impaired adults barely know religion in depth because from school age they have never learned about it,” said the cleric, noting how interest in his school had spread quickly.
In Indonesia, the curriculum in public schools provides limited religious teaching to children with special needs, starting at the age of eight or nine rather than at kindergarten as is the case for many other students.
Only three out of 10 children with disabilities in Indonesia are able to go to school, according to a survey by the United Nations children’s agency (UNICEF).
Hearing-impaired students typically take about five years to learn to recite and memorize the Qur’an at the school.
“Now I am able to read and memorize 30 juz (parts) of the Qur’an,” said Muhammad Farhad, a 10-year-old student, who said he wanted to become a cleric one day so he can pass on his knowledge to others.
Indonesia has tens of thousands of Islamic boarding schools and other religious schools that often provide the only way for children from poorer families to get an education.
DUBAI: The UAE’s Pet Corner store has launched a $10,000 accessory for all the posh pooches out there – a diamond-studded dog collar.
The collars will go on sale as part of the chain’s new Pet Corner Elite Club offering, which features a range of luxury accessories.
Billed as the UAE’s first diamond and gemstone studded exquisite collars for dogs of small to medium breeds, the Haute Hound collection features a bow-shaped centerpiece brooch with 2.6 carats of certified natural diamonds and 6-7 carats of natural rubies encrusted in 18 carat gold.
Priced from $ 10,074 upwards, every collar comes with a certificate of authenticity, diamond grading and gemstone identification.
“Dogs are man’s best friends and diamonds/gems are truly one of nature’s most precious and beautiful creations — making it a perfect accessory for any pooch. We see our customers wanting only the best for their precious pets. This collection offers comfort and style to make any pup stand out from the crowd. We will be introducing many more elite products and supplies in the coming months,” Sidarth Mahindra, Pet Corner’s chief pet officer, said.
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida: A person using a flamethrower set fire Saturday to a Pan-African flag flying on a pole outside the headquarters of the Uhuru Movement, a Black international socialist group based in Florida.
Security video released by the group shows the driver of a white Honda sedan pulling up outside the group’s St. Petersburg headquarters, removing a flamethrower from the trunk and shooting a tower of fire at the flag flying about 30 feet (9 meters) above the ground. The group says the man stopped when a worker inside the building yelled at him. The video shows him putting the flamethrower back in the trunk and then driving away. A photo supplied by the group shows the flag with a large hole.
St. Petersburg police said they are investigating the fire and are working to identify a suspect.
The Uhuru Movement is part of the African People’s Socialist Party, which says it is “uniting African people as one people for liberation, social justice, self-reliance and economic development.”
Akile Akai, the group’s director of agitation and propaganda, said the attack is in the same vein as the May killing of 10 Black people at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket. Police say the arrested suspect in the Buffalo massacre is a white nationalist.
Akai said such attacks are caused by the decline of a “social system and facade of normalcy based on oppression, colonialism and exploitation.”


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