For 20 years, the ALF has remained steadfast in its mission: to celebrate the many excellent achievements of high school students in the community
(See translation in Arabic section)
Sydney - Middle East Times Int’l: The Australian Lebanese Foundation (ALF) held its annual ceremony on November 10 for the winners of secondary school certificate examinations at the University of Sydney, in the presence of a large crowd which included diplomatic, academic, political parties, social and cultural figures. Also present were the Consul General of Lebanon in Sydney, Charbel Macaron and his wife, the pastor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Australia, Bishop Robert Rabat, the head of the Monastery of Saint Charbel, Father Asaad Lahoud, the former President of the Legislative Council in NSW, Hon. John Ajaka, the businessman George Ghossayn (Abu Wadih), Chairman of the Australian Lebanese Chamber of Commerce Salim Nicholas, President of the Patriarchal Foundation for Comprehensive Development in Australia Sarkis Nassif, Vice President of the Australian Lebanese Chamber of Commerce Joe Khattar, General Manager of Arab Bank Australia, Joe Rizk (CEO), General Manager of the Bank of Sydney Melos Sulicich (CEO), Chief Business Banking Officer of the Bank of Sydney Fawaz Sankari , businessman Anthony Sukari, and Lebanese parties and associations, including Lebanese Forces, Becharrie Association, as well as media figures including Anwar Harb, Joe Khoury, Camil Shalala and Tony Azzi. The MC of the ceremony was Andrew Coorey. The following spoke at the ceremony: President of the Australian Lebanese Foundation, Dean Fadia Ghossayn, Dr. Doumit Azar, Dr. Ziad Sankari, John Ajaka, Dr. Anthony Rahayel Dr. Talal Abu Ghazaleh and Pierre Assaf. There was also a speech by student Matthew Nicolas, who scored 99.9 in the secondary school exams. Matthew impressed most of the attendees at the ALF dinner celebration with a distinguished and remarkable performance while delivering his speech. The Middle East Times wishes Matthew more success in the future.
LtoR: Consul General of Lebanon Mr Macaron, Prof. Fadia and
SPEECH BY PROFESSOR FADIA GHOSSAYN, ALF PATRON
For 20 years, the ALF has been steadfast in its mission: to foster higher learning so that our young students can lead a life worth living.
The ALF desires to expand minds, and open hearts to God’s miracles of life, of family, of opportunity, and of service.
Since starting the ALF in 2002, we have known seven prime ministers and two billion people were born. A lot has changed. More will change even faster. And your anxiety, dear students, about your future, is perhaps more intense than what we felt when we were your age.
Although we celebrate innovation, we hope that certain principles never change: Like the value we place on family and love of community. In 20 years, hosted countless events to learn about business, health, education, art, music, politics, and technology, in order to maintain strong roots, and flexible branches.
The roots refer to our foundations, as a community that values citizenship. To be a good citizen means to engage and to share. To be a great citizen means to participate and to give. To be an excellent citizen means to sacrifice and invest in other people’s children so that everyone benefits, so that a country becomes a society that becomes a community that becomes a neighbourhood.
The CEO of Arab Bank Australia Joe Rizk with a delegation of the ABA
Sadly, the blessings we enjoy Down Under have led to one negative feature; that is, we lack a sense of urgency. Our great life here has made life slow.
I urge you to ignite your passions, inflame your determination and clean out your rooms, and minds, and junk, and bad habits. Start with a laser-sharp focus on your studies. Even though you might switch degrees, and find new interests, you must embrace “the now” with a sense of urgency. With a level of emergency to take this life, this opportunity, this blessing, earnestly.
Australia is still a young nation. Your ancestors in Lebanon trace a family tree back 12,000 years. They are cheering you on. They are proud of you. They need you to respect their sacrifices, and continue the great Lebanese traditions of innovation, exploration, and dedication.
SPEECH BY DR. DOUMIT AZAR
Since we last met in this hallowed hall, our planet circled around the sun once. In that time we witnessed joy yet we continue to hear the tumultuous cries from those on faraway shores.
Mr N Kaldas with partner, Mr S Nassif with wife and other attendees
Some of you might recall my report to you last year regarding outcomes on childhood education from cruel challenges related to the pandemic political corruption and economic turmoil.
The ALF sought to help because although our primary mission is to strengthen academic ties between the University of Sydney and academic institutions in Lebanon, without children reading, there will be no academic institute in Lebanon or at least no good ones where people are free to think, to express and to exchange ideas, to agree and to respectfully disagree with other educated people who understand the power of education for the common good.
Some of you may also recall that in response to these challenges in Lebanon, I decided to partner the ALF with a wonderful non-government organisation known as Room to Read, who recently commenced an ambitious literacy program for kids in Lebanon where over one million children suffer from lengthy and school closures over the past couple of years and where tens of thousands of children in second and third grade are reading at a kindergarten level.
Mr Melos Sulicich and partner The CEO of Bank of Sydney
Room to Read aims to open 50 non-formal education centre libraries to distribute 100,000 books and to conduct reading research for learning Arabic in order to get kids to have all access into the public school system.
I am delighted to welcome tonight the Associate Director of Room to Read, Janelle Prescott.
Janelle, the ALF is proud of the work being done Room to Read in Lebanon and we are proud to support that work. I have reported that Room to Read had already reached 6000 children in Lebanese which is a wonderful outcome for those kids for their families and the wider community.
I’m glad to report that since then that number has grown to over 15,000 children reached by Room to Read and many tens of thousands of books were distributed to those kids who have been taught to read by locally trained professionals.
Room to Read’s project goal for 2024 is to open another 35 libraries across Lebanon, adding to the 15 already running. The positive impact of such work is almost immeasurable.
LtoR: Mr Duweihi, Mr J Khattar, Bishop Rabbat and Ms S. Khattar
LtoR: M. and T Khattar, Mr Kiserwani, Mr A. Sukari, Ms Kiserwani,
Ms Sukari, Mr A Harb and Ms A. Harb
Salim and wife Lara Nicolas with their son Matthew, 2023 ALF
Dr. Ziad Sankari (2ndR) with Fawaz Sankari (1stR) with son and daughter
If we can show some support for Room to Read, we can make a huge difference to those in need. Now, we are also here to celebrate victories and each and every one of our solitude recipients is cause for celebration.
Their successes were not created in a vacuum but with help from others and using that spirit, if we can demonstrate the strength required to make a tangible difference to those kids in Lebanon who dream of one day stepping up onto a stage like this.
SPEECH BY DR. ZIAD SANKARI,
This is my very first time in Australia. I just flew in this morning from the United States and I got here thinking that I speak very good English so I walked into a shop and I ordered my typical coffee and everybody seemed to be giggling. They looked at me and asked “Where are you from?” I was like, “Did I say something wrong?” It turns out they call it different here. The point is, no matter how much we think we know, there is always a lot for us to learn.
We continue to learn and grow.
LtoR: Fr. Lahoud, Bishop Rabbat, Mr Shalala, Fr. Azzi and Mr T Azzi
Today we live in the Dark Ages of Medicine but there is a paradigm shift that’s happened; artificial intelligence is happening. AI is making a big difference in how we respond to diseases around the world and it’s moving at the speed of light. Today there is so much data; we collect so much data from all of you, and you are able to make use of that data to extend your life and to live a longer and healthier life with health technologies.
The heart beats more than 100,000 times a day and each heartbeat tells us something about you. We can gather all that information and make the best use out of it; this is what we are focusing on. There are so many companies and so many research groups around the world that are focused on making a difference so I invite you to make use of the technology that is out there so that you live a longer and healthier life.
SPEECH BY JOHN AJAKA
For me, I’ve had three absolute passions in life I learnt from my mother: loving God, loving my family and loving my community. I believe that when you give as much as you can for God, for family and for community, your rewards are enormous. I encourage each of our young people here: Surround yourself by some great mentors, surround yourself with good friends; love your God, love your family, love your community and give as much as you can. You will never regret it.
Mr Ajaka with wife and daughters
SPEECH BY DR. ANTHONY RAHAYEL
We’re going to talk about why this amazing country of Lebanon which is smaller than Sydney; Lebanon has 10,452 square kilometres while Sydney has 12,000. Lebanon is seven times smaller than Tasmania and 720 times smaller than Australia yet it has lots of things to give.
Lebanon has been one of the major countries that built the world we know today. Did you know that there are more than 16 civilisations that occupy Lebanon.
In Lebanon, we have 40 different countries in one; we have 40 different habitats in one. Lebanon has more than 19 herbs and plants. Lebanon started 6000 or 7000 years ago in a beautiful piece of land. The Romans chose Lebanon because of everything that made it a centre of their empire; from Lebanon they could take the water and vegetables and create all roads that led to Rome.
LtoR: Joelle Macaron, Lara Nicolas and other guests
Lebanon has 16 rivers; it’s the only country in the Middle East that has that amount of water. It’s the only country in the Middle East that has snow around six months of the year at the highest level. It definitely has the highest peak.
SPEECH BY DR. TALAL ABU GHAZALEH
I have been warning -- not warning, predicting -- that this world we live in, of no order and no leadership, is unacceptable and unusual in terms of historic governance of the world.
We cannot continue to have a superpower who is insisting on continuing to be the superpower as has the US. Now this leadership is challenged by another superpower, China, who thinks that it is only fair for them to join this leadership effort.
Now this has to come to an end and this era where we have all international organisations, practically crippled and unable to take any resolutions or any actions because of the wonderful system of veto power.
Five countries of the world dominate the world through the veto power and any one of them can stop the solution, which is what is happening now.
Therefore, something must happen and that was predicted in 1985; I had the chance to speak at the National Science Academy in Washington and the theme of the seminar was ‘where will the US be in 2020?’ One of their conclusions was that they would face a challenge to their leadership of the world. Many US presidents have already announced in public that China is a serious challenge to their world leadership.
LtoR: F. Sankari with son, Dr. Rifi, Prof. Ghossayn, Dr. Z. Sankari and
Mr J. Khoury
Salim Nicolas and wife Lara, Danny Nicolas and other attendees
Melhem Ayoub (1stR) with wife and children
A delegation of the Lebanese forces including Sister Elham Geagea
There is no superpower that can dictate everything to every country of the world. We were happy to be dictated to by superpowers but now there is no superpower; there is a complete crippling of authority in the world. There is no more world order; there are no more superpowers.
Something has to happen That’s why I say we are waiting for a day when there is military friction because the war has already started, either by proxy, like we have seen in Ukraine or in Palestine.
Actual military conflict between the two superpowers has yet to happen and it is bound to happen.
I think we will have a new government structure; we need rules and systems and policies like after World War II when we had global organisations from the World Bank, IMF and the United Nations for a new system of global government.
World leaders will sit around the table, China (with Russia on side) and the US with Great (Britain) on the side.
LtoR: Mr C. Shalala, Mr D. Isaac and S. Nicolas
Ms N. Shaar and Mr G. Rifi
Fr. Sandroussi (1stL) and other attendees
LtoR: Dr. I. Berro, Mr A. Al-Hassan and Dr J. Rifi
Elsy Khoury and other attendees
Jackie Boustani and other attendees
Wadih George Ghossayn (R) with other friend during the event
On Artificial Intelligence, it is a misnomer. It means nothing. You tell me Artificial Intelligence, I don’t understand anything. What it is actually is programming; pro-active control computer programming.
Artificial Intelligence is programming going through a development stage; as technology moves forward, so too does the next development in programming computer programs (what we call pro-active programming).
This pro-active program is what they call Artificial Intelligence. Now, Artificial Intelligence intends to make everything in the world programmed; that’s a great challenge because when you program anything it means it gives them the authority to operate on its own.
The risk is unless you’ve come up with two solutions, I am very concerned about the future of humanity because these programs can become self-developing. The second part is the actual social impact and fairness because Artificial Intelligence can make anybody look like me.
SPEECH BY MATTHEW NICOLAS, 2023 ALF SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENT
For generations, our Lebanon was considered a prosperous haven of education producing some of the brightest pioneering minds recognised internationally as Lebanese students around the world showed their remarkable resilience in the face of challenges.
However, during the economic crisis and political unrest in Lebanon, many students faced difficulties that threatened their education; hundreds of thousands of students have not attended a class since October 2019.
To tackle this head on, the Lebanese community did what they do best; assist their people, finding creative solutions like crowdfunding campaigns and scholarships to continue their studies.
Their determination to pursue knowledge in the midst of chaos is truly inspiring, a testimony to the Lebanese resilience. A quality us students here today not only admire, but more significantly attempt to mimic.
Through these and other examples, Lebanese students demonstrated their unwavering persistence and that no matter the challenges they face, they are determined to overcome them.
Their ability to adapt, persevere, and support one another is truly commendable. It is no simple feat to consistently display the aforementioned qualities throughout your schooling; I congratulate you all.
While giving thanks to all parents, I acknowledge their pivotal role in ingraining the importance of tertiary education in their children, which gives Australian Lebanese students our drive and passion.
Education has become a highly valued means to overcome challenges and achieve personal and collective success. Education equips us individuals here today with the knowledge and skills needed for employment, enabling us to become active contributors towards our respective communities here in Australia. Through education, the Lebanese community around the world can embrace innovation, address societal issues and create a brighter future.