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DUBAI: A moving and inspiring speech given by a Lebanese student at a graduation ceremony at the American University of Beirut, in which he paid tribute to his “poor and hard-working” parents and the sacrifices they made made to ensure he gets an education, is going viral on social media.
Elie El-Khawand, a 21-year-old electrical and computer engineering student, was among those who graduated from the university on June 11. He was chosen to deliver the keynote address after responding to an email from AUB authorities inviting 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 deliver the speech.
His heartwarming words and genuine feelings impressed and moved the thousands in attendance at the graduation ceremony and over the past few days the video of the speech, originally shared by other graduates and their friends and families, has gone viral. started going viral on social media. platforms.
In his speech, El-Khawand spoke about his parents’ hard and difficult journey and their struggles to raise him and provide him with a quality education.
He began by saying that he would not give in to the financial crisis currently affecting Lebanon and that he was “following my heart and aiming for the stars”.
He told the crowd, “I want to share with you who I really am. Eleven years after their marriage, a janitor and his housekeeper, who had lost all 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 erupted in cheers and applause, before continuing: “… and ignited their sense of purpose – or so they told me.”
Speaking with obvious pride, El-Khawand said, “From dawn to dusk, my mother carried me with her broom and mop as she cleaned the houses in the neighborhood. My father worked as a janitor at a reputable school nearby, which I entered and continued my education for free.
He recounted how, growing up, he became aware of his family’s situation in life, but that despite the fact that his parents were poor, they “could give him an abundance of love and comfort”.
Speaking to other students from a similar social background, El-Khawand added, “You never know how the dots will end up connecting. Have the confidence to follow your heart and never be afraid to take the first step.
To illustrate his point, he revealed the challenge he faced when he realized he might not be able to afford college as his family often struggled to pay for daily necessities.
“I enrolled in AUB with a totally unclear payment plan,” he said, but added that he eventually “got decent financial aid and scholarships from AUB. I won the 30,000 A List contest and worked as a part-time tutor.
Asked by Arab News how proud he was of his parents as he watched them from the podium as he delivered his speech, El-Khawand said: “I’m not going to lie, I didn’t find them in the crowd. ”
As for the incredible reception his heartfelt words received on the day and as they spread online, he admitted he hadn’t expected such an emotional and positive response from public.
“To be honest, not to this extent,” he said. “I was amazed by the thousands of posts and comments, especially those that made it clear to me that they 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 stations and news outlets also reported on the speech and aired parts of it.