​​​​​Commencement 2012: Student Speaker

Ola Ali
Student Commencement Speaker
Commencement Ceremony

A Dream, A Journey, A Promise
Thank you, President Shih.

Honored guests, ladies and gentlemen and the graduating class of 2012.

A great woman, Eleanor Roosevelt, once said, "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."

In 2009, King Abdullah stood here, at his university, and shared with the whole world a dream, a dream to build a house of wisdom, a beacon of peace that serves the kingdom and the world.

When we all came to KAUST, it was because we believed in his dream. We believed in the beauty, the nobility and the foresight of the dream. We believed in the promise and saw our own dreams through it.

For some of us, the dream was pursuing their passion for science and technology in one of the world's best-equipped research facilities.

For others, it was learning about the wonders of the Red Sea and about the culture of a country that hosts two of the most important landmarks in the history of Islam, the two holy mosques

For me, and probably for most of you, it was earning a master's degree from one of the world's newest universities.

But fellow classmates, today, we are humbled by the presence of even bigger dreams coming true as KAUST grants the first ten PhD degrees in its short history.

Fellow graduates:

Today, we should be proud of ourselves. We've completed the journey; we've made our families, friends and hopefully our university, KAUST, proud of us.

But do you remember when this journey started?

Do you remember the feeling when you were driven from the airport to KAUST for the first time? Was it doubt, confusion, maybe even cold feet?

Now, tell me, was that the same feeling you had when you were applying for the PhD program at KAUST just a month ago? I think not.

Do you remember how you felt about living in the Kingdom back then?

Well, it's definitely not the same feeling that motivated you to put on your best suit just to get an interview with Aramco or SABIC? Is it?

And more importantly, did you ever think of the irony that the same girl who would not return your handshake during orientation is now considered a friend for life?

What did not seem possible just a short time ago has been achieved: KAUST has become a second home for all of us. I personally feel very fortunate to have found a home here and I believe that most you of feel the same way.

This has, indeed, been a journey of a lifetime, a unique experience that left a deep impression on each and every one of us.

We will never forget hanging out in the square. We will never forget pulling all-nighters in the Library. And we will definitely never forget trying to solve the mystery of why Building 18 is next to Building 5 and very far from Building 19.

We won't forget the friends. We won't forget the journey.

And what a journey…

A journey that started with hesitant and tentative steps ended with a dream come true and thousands of opportunities and opened doors.

But wasn't it because of this promise that we all came to KAUST?

The promise of an environment that nurtures inspiration and creativity, an environment where our voices and thoughts are heard and appreciated;

the promise of cutting-edge research that is linked to people's needs;

the promise of being part of an institution that aims to benefit humanity through science and technology;

the promise of a university within the borders of the kingdom and the Middle East that acknowledges diversity and respects it.

It's such a rare combination!

I stand here and today and on behalf of the class of 2012, to say to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah, to KAUST, faculty and staff, that you've kept the promise, you've held your part of the deal. It is now time for us to honor ours.


We promise, as we head our separate ways – some to continue on to PhDs, others to their new jobs – we promise to carry the mission, the vision and the values of this university and to aspire to them;

we promise to be KAUST ambassadors and to share our experience with the whole world;

we promise to always remember that our successes and achievements are the best gift we can give back to KAUST;

But until we live up to those promises, let us start with a humble thank you:

We thank you KAUST for the dream, the journey and the promise.

Shukran. Thank you.