The New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman Speaks at AUIS Third Commencement Ceremony

Sunday, June 1, 2014 - 15:00

The New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, and the KRG minister of higher education Ali Saeed, addressed the graduating class of the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) during the university’s third commencement exercises.  The ceremony was presided over by the chairman of the Board of Trustees Dr. Barham Salih and AUIS President Dawn Dekle.

During his commencement address, Friedman challenged the graduating class to not only thrive in the world around them, but also dare to change it.

“Your country needs your talent, passion and creativity more than ever,” he said. “So many color revolutions and Arab springs failed because after the tweeting was over, and after the Facebook posts were all posted, they failed to build organizations and institutions that could take their ideas and turn them into governance, laws and parties that could win elections. Now that you are graduating, whatever work you end up doing, donate a little time to some kind of civil society institution... Promise me you’ll get out of Facebook and into somebody’s face.”

Iraq's Best Hope: Read Friedman's article about the AUIS commencement in The New York Times

Chairman of the AUIS Board of Trustees Barham Salih echoed this sentiment in his address, encouraging graduates to initiate change and help the region overcome its painful history. “Education is at the heart of our vision for the future,” said Salih. “We look at you and we see agents for change and reform. Our region does not have to be stuck in its history. We do not forget our history, but we can be so different in the future. We do not have to be defined by the history of tragedy and violence and conflict. We can be a prosperous society in which individuals are free, capable, and empowered to influence the destiny of their homeland.”

The student address was delivered by valedictorian Dina Dara, who also spoke of change when she urged her peers to apply the tools and techniques learned at AUIS to the world beyond the campus gates. “We will face obstacles as we try to take what we have learned here to our jobs, to our community, and in our social lives. As we approach problems critically and exercise critical thinking techniques that have been the core of our education here, and as we try to move beyond the traditional conventions, we may struggle. But isn’t this how nations are built?”

This year’s graduates include 94 undergraduate and 32 graduate students, which is the largest graduating class in the University’s history. More than 50 percent of the undergraduates are business administration majors, 30 percent are information technology majors and 16 percent majored in international studies. Almost 40 percent of the graduating class are woman.

Transcript of Friedman's commencement speech is available here.

Photos of the commencement ceremony are available on our Facebook page.

American University of Iraq, Sulaimani was founded in 2007 as an independent, non-profit, American-style institution of higher learning. The University provides broad-based education, rooted in the American liberal arts tradition. Its programs are designed to develop critical thinking, the ability to communicate well, a strong work ethic, good citizenship and personal integrity, preparing students for successful careers in a modern, pluralistic society, and in a global environment.