Concluding the Leaders for Democracy program at the Lebanese American University
The activities of the Leaders for Democracy Arabic program 2015, funded by the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) and implemented by the Lebanese American University in cooperation with Syracuse University in the United States were concluded on the premises of the University in Beirut some two months after its launching. The ceremony was attended by the US Embassy representative in Lebanon, Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) Marc Desjardins, the Provost of the University George Najjar, the Jordanian Ambassador to Lebanon Nabil Masarwa, the Yemeni Ambassador to Lebanon Ali ALdailmi, MEPI’s general director Erik Ryan, Tunisian Member of Parliament Samah Damak, Director LAU MEPI-TL Program Walid Touma, Program Coordinator Imad Salamey and a number of diplomats, representatives of international organizations and Non-governmental Organizations, in addition to civil society activists and students from the University.
The Lebanese National Anthem was performed at the opening ceremony then; the graduating leaders introduced themselves, in a distinctive gesture, their background and their experience in the program and introduced the different keynote speakers.
The coordinator of the LDF Arabic program 2015 was first to take the floor. He explained that “the LDF program was designed in support of the efforts for political reform in the Arab world by giving the opportunity to some 20 participants who are leaders in reform initiatives and civil activists in 10 Arab countries to gain academic skills, work experience and be introduced to professionals in their field of experience for a period of two and a half months in Lebanon”.
Salamey praised everyone who made the program a success and expressed his gratitude to the American people and government in promoting the culture of democracy in the Arab world. He also congratulated the leaders for their exceptional success in completing the achievement.
LAU MEPI-TL Program Director, Walid Touma spoke of the pressing need for the Arab world during the current period to implement political and social reform and real democracy that would ensure security and progress. He stressed that reform cannot materialize in the Arab world without women’s empowerment at all levels. He added that reform leadership in the Arab world has become a necessary obligation and not an option saying that the real challenge for the leaders starts immediately after the end of the program and upon return to their home countries.
The Jordanian media personality, Mahmoud Al-Maharma spoke on behalf of the leaders. His speech was focused on the useful and unique experience of the leaders during the program and said that “participants were given an opportunity to learn about new and valuable ideas, gain from a wide scientific and practical experience, learn about Lebanon’s culture and freedoms and the workings of its civil society organizations in addition to the cultural interchange amongst the leaders which served them in discovering the character and merits of each Arab country represented in the program.
Al-Maharma asserted that “As the program comes to a closure, mixed emotions of joy and sadness are experienced by the leaders for they gained insight and underwent a constructive and useful experience that will contribute in the implementation of reforms in their home countries and the feelings of sadness as the program draws to an end during which they made friends and became a family”.
The Lebanese American University Provost, George Najjar spoke on behalf of the University President Joseph Jabbra, thanked the American government for its generous efforts and ongoing support for political reform in the Arab world, praised its productive cooperation with the Lebanese American University and expressed his hope for continued cooperation and the prospects for its development in the years to come.
Najjar congratulated the leaders for their completion of the program asserting that they “are a source of pride for the Lebanese American University since they can be considered a part of the alumni network of the University that is spread throughout the Arab world and the world as a whole”.
Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) at the American Embassy in Lebanon, Marc Desjardins delivered the closing remarks, thanked the leaders for their appreciated efforts during the program and thanked the Lebanese American University for its role and management of the program and its success. Desjardins considered that “Promotion of democratic values and ideas, intellectual and practical capacity building to achieve political and social reform and fighting extremism and terrorism in the Arab world are amongst the priorities of the United States of America in the current period”.
Desjardins declared that the “American government has invested nearly 13 million dollars since 2007 in the Leaders for Democracy program in both versions, Arabic and English which has an alumni network of 200 leaders, men and women who have played important and fundamental roles in their home states upon graduation from the program”.
Desjardins stressed upon the great responsibility and significant challenge for the Leaders for Democracy in passing the values and ideas that they learned during the program onto their home countries. He said that the motivation, will and conviction to make decisions are more important than just making a decision and ended by congratulating the leaders for completing the program wishing them success and luck in their future endeavors”.
In closing, Desjardins, Najjar, Ryan, Touma and Salamey with participation by Ambassadors, State Representatives bestowed the graduation certificates upon the leader graduates. A cocktail party honoring the guests and leaders marked the end of the occasion.