Welcome Remarks by the President of American University of Nigeria Dr. Margee Ensign at the 12th Commencement Ceremony on July 10, 2021

Here at the outset of our graduation ceremonies, I would like to recognize the many heroes we have with us today.  The heroes of great conviction, and of great generosity, the heroes who have made today possible.

 

I am speaking first of the proud parents and families of our AUN students.  Could I ask that all of our honored parents please stand.

 

On behalf of this university, on behalf of your children, on behalf of us all gathered here today, we recognize and  thank you. Thank you for your faith in us, thank you for your belief in your children, and in their bright futures.  I thank you for your great sacrifices.

 

And while we are on the subject of heroes, we have two of Nigeria’s greatest here on this stage with me.  One is the beloved founder of this university, the former Vice President of Nigeria, His Excellency Atiku Abubakar. Vice President Abubakar’s steadfast support for us, and his unwavering generosity toward this institution, year after year, is truly humbling. AUN reflects his profound belief in the importance of education, and in the future of his country. He vision and his generosity are a model for us all. 

 

With him is our speaker for today, one of Nigeria’s most distinguished public figures. Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina is a man known and respected throughout Africa, throughout the world. In recognition of his outstanding job as President of the 80-member nation African Development Bank, Dr. Adesina was recently re-elected for a second term as Bank president. From this powerful position he has helped raised the standard of living of literally hundreds of millions of African people.

 

These two men, I believe, stand as exemplars of all that is best about this great country, and they raise a standard to which all of our students can justly aspire.

 

So now let me congratulate some of those students, the classes of 2020 and 2021. 

 

What times we have all lived through!  A global pandemic, along with the astonishingly quick invention and production of vaccines. Challenging and life- threatening times; frightening and amazing times. But uplifting, too-- for here we all are, all celebrating together today. 

 

Of course, the challenging times are not over yet. 

 

In a broader sense, they will never be over. It becomes clearer every day: we are living in an unprecedented and challenging period in human history. Our very climate is changing. People are rightly demanding a more just, a more equitable society, with education and employment and health care for all.  A new world is emerging and Nigeria will be one of the giants of that new world, a leader not just of Africa but of the entire world. In the lifetime of the graduates here today.

 

As students of Africa’s only development university, you chose to come to a place where we value adaptability, flexibility, creativity and resilience.  A place where we can all better understand the challenges facing a developing society—right here in Yola. A place where we share a clear-eyed but a hopeful view of the future. 

 

It is difficult and challenging work, this trying to build a better future. Rewarding, of course--hugely rewarding--but hard work nonetheless. It is hard work to absolutely insist on personal integrity in ourselves and in others. Hard work to understand the complex issues we all face, the obstacles that stand between us and a more just and secure and sustainable society. But that is our mission here: to truly live out our motto:  Excellence, Integrity, and Service.  

 

Our mission here at this university is based on a US philosophy of education, an education that is both rigorous and practical, one that addresses real-world problems in both its course content and in our research. We are a university that incorporates community development work into every student’s curriculum. A university that expects all students not to just sit back and listen, but to actively engage in discussion and questioning and debate in all of our small classes. And one that demands the very highest ethical standards from everyone. Everyone. On this we shall never compromise.

 

And in spite of all the challenges, all the many challenges, we have succeeded in many ways. 

 

We are completing our 32nd academic semester, our 32nd uninterrupted semester.  The insurgency, not even a global pandemic—nothing has deterred us.  We have created a safe, a secure environment, an ecologically friendly and sustainable place with one of the finest award-winning digital libraries in the world, a sustainable Nigerian university with 24 hour Internet connections, and we have even been singled out by Google, of all people, for special recognition. A tranquil place designed to bring out the best in our students, the future leaders of Nigeria and the world.

 

The challenges that you will now face as you leave us today will be complex and  demanding, sometimes infuriating.  But so much is at stake.  The very future is at stake. So I beg of you- never to shirk. Never to give to cynicism or to despair. Never, never, never to give up, as Winston Churchill said.  And always work for the common good. Always. 

 

Nigeria and the world await your creativity, your hard work, and your contributions; await the talents that you have developed and honed here with us at AUN. 

 

Go forth and make your parents, make your families, proud. Go forth and make your university proud. Go forth, please, go forth and help us to make a better Nigeria, a better Africa, a better world. And know this, remember this: AUN—your university—AUN believes in you.  Know this and always remember this:  I believe in you.