Class of 2021, proud parents and family members, welcome to LUMS.
It is my privilege to share a few moments with you along with Deans of the respective schools. Prof. Jawad Syed, Dean of the Suleman Dawood of Business, Prof. Kamran Asdar Ali, Dean of the Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Prof. Shahid Masud, Dean of the Syed Babar Ali School of Science and Engineering, Prof. Martin Lau, Dean of the Shaikh Ahmad Hasan School of Law and Prof. Tahir Andrabi, Dean of the new School of Education that will admit its first batch of students next year. The academic leadership of the Schools, together with Ms. Nabiha Shahnawaz, the Chief Operating Officer, Dr. Mubashir Ali, Registrar and Yasser Hashmi, Dean of Student Affairs form the senior team whose vested interest lies in your success. We are here because of you. We succeed when you succeed.
So how should we define success? Perhaps, by defining smaller milestones; settling in at LUMS, making new friends, doing well in courses, finding your major, participating in a student society or intramural sports activity? Or, defining major milestones, choosing a career path, graduating from the University, getting admission into the graduate school of your choice abroad, finding the job of your dreams, earning a good salary? What will it be? You will inshallah succeed as per these definitions. You have made it to LUMS and are among the academic elite of this country who has obtained on average 8.4 As in your O Levels and above 90% at the Matric Level. You made it here by sheer hard work, on merit alone. Your presence here is testimony to your brilliance and your hard work. That is one of the reasons I speak with so much confidence and certitude, when I say you will Inshallah succeed as per those milestones I have just spoken about.
But you are at LUMS and we at this institution and this country, do wish for the skies for you. Decades from now in the future, we look at you as the leaders that will be taking this country forward; out of the clutches of poverty, where 40% of the children are not malnourished, where educational opportunities are plentiful for everybody, where there is respect, tolerance and supremacy of merit. Having just celebrated the 70th anniversary of the birth of this nation, the founding fathers of this great institution, all of whom were witness to the trials and tribulations of 1947; all of whom were mesmerized by the call of the Quaid; all of whom were overwhelmed by the poetry of Allama Iqbal; they all look to the LUMS graduates as the future leaders of this great country to which so many have given so much.
What are, indeed, the characteristics that define a leader? Just this past week the Management Committee of LUMS held a workshop at Harvard chaired by the legendary Dean of Harvard’s School of Arts and Sciences, Prof. Henry Rosovsky; who distilled the essence of leadership as Character, Human Relations and Trust. And so as you travel half the world to learn from the world’s sages, your knowledge comes full circle as Bulleh Shah’s message and those of the sages of this ancient land, rings true at Harvard.
Your character is going to be defined by the values you hold true and the image that looks back at you from the mirror that you hold to yourself. It will also be defined by your response to the whirlwinds of life that you will be periodically subjected to, as the Quran has promised. Will you compromise on integrity? Will you slip in the onslaught of Dante’s seven deadly sins? Pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth?
While technology is indeed changing everything, it is still the people driving the technology who remain at the heart of it all. There are so many that have so much and so many others that want for everything. Will you care about that? What will be your relations to them? From positions of strength and from positions of weakness? Will you learn empathy, to feel the pain of your fellows as if it had happened to you? Will you nurture your relations with friends, neighbours and family? Because these relationships are real living things and will die if not tended.
No man is an island. You cannot accomplish great things alone. Will you learn to give and receive trust? Computer algorithms will not define this relationship of trust; they may provide assistance but you will drive them. Building teams to accomplish greatness.
But this position of leadership is not your birth right. It will have to be earned by you by meeting all the small milestones, the larger milestones and focusing on character building, human relations and trust through unity, faith and discipline.
Yesterday morning as I walked through the campus and chatted with freshmen, I asked them what they came to study at LUMS. Accountancy, Computer Science, Economics/Maths were the answers that led the way. Do study them and excel; but here you will have the opportunity to study the prose of Manto, the message of the poets of the subcontinent, diplomacy, legal reasoning, logic, analysis and experience entrepreneurship. Let your heart and mind wander. Master your discipline but understand that Elon Musk, who has founded multiple multibillion companies today, is reputed to read two books a day and they had to invent a new term to define him; Specialist Generalist; diving into all knowledge, breaking all barriers, revelling in joys of scholarship.
So, go forth and wander. LUMS is an institution bursting with opportunities for you. An exciting, and yes at times, daunting, adventure. We do not believe in providing answers. We believe in enhancing your ability to ask questions and searching for the answers yourself. You are on a journey. A journey within, finding who you are, what you love, where your passions lie, where your talents lie. Some students and many parents will find this journey difficult but my request to the student is to trust yourself, and to the parent is to trust your child who has become an adult now.
There are many things that are different about LUMS and the next week will provide you an introduction to them. The biggest one is probably the semester system that will require continuous and concerted effort, multitasking and learning to live with pressure. My simple advice would be to read every day, work hard and go to class.
I would also like to emphasise again that we are here for you. No matter how difficult the issue is, talk to us. You are not alone. The faculty, the student counsellor, the Office of Student Affairs, the Deans and myself are all available at all times. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Parents, family and students, just write if there is anything that you wish the University should address. I respond to all emails.
Congratulations again. Your adventure begins.