Honourable Rector, Mr. Shahid Hussain, esteemed members of the Board of Trustees, faculty, colleagues, proud parents, distinguished guests and the graduating class of 2019, Assalamalaikum.
Welcome to the Graduate night. Also known as the LUMS Oscars for super-achievers. On this auspicious occasion, getting to the podium isn’t because of luck, or genetic predisposition. You are here because you have excelled academically. You have worked exceptionally hard and demonstrated integrity and perseverance.
Of course, there are other reasons that have led to your singular achievements. Before I elaborate on these reasons, I ask everyone to join me in congratulating and applauding our outstanding students. Now the reasons; first and foremost, you are here because your family believes in the value of education. Your success is more important to them than anything else. To all the amis, abus, uncles, dadis and dadas – you don’t get enough credit for everything you do. Please accept our heartfelt gratitude and thanks.
Secondly, dear students, your teachers accompanied you throughout your journey. You can blame them for robbing you of your sleep, or for inflicting cruel and unusual punishments on you, day after day, night after night. You might have thought that a 4-year boot camp in the Sahara would have been easier. But here you are!
My dear students, your teachers are more than experts. Whether you like it or not, they have become your family. I ask you to join me in appreciation for your teachers. You are also here tonight because of something my late father used to say. It went something like this:
Son, nothing in life should be done in excess. Except for one thing. That one thing is the greatest of all secrets. Not everyone can unlock it. In fact, it is greater than the most sustainable source of energy that man will ever find. That thing he spoke about, while it may sound clichéd, is really true. It is a yearning and a hunger to learn that ultimately takes you as far as you want to go. It isn’t only wanting to learn. It is also about what the writer and futurist Alvin Toffler said:
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
My dear students, it is this attitude towards learning that will be the defining quality of success for the 21st century leaders.
As you celebrate tonight and tomorrow night, a new reality and new challenges await you. They await especially you, because your success tonight opens wider doors of opportunity. But opportunity that can bring greater awards always come with greater risks.
So let me ask you: as you transition to the next chapter in your life, will you be an engine, or will you be the car? Allow me to explain:
Take the case of a farmer’s son who turned out to be one of the most important innovators of the last two centuries. He had a great invention, but no suitable fuel, no machinery to connect it to, no optimal application and he wasn’t able to put it into practice in a way that had any significant impact on anyone, let alone the world. His name was Nikolaus Otto. You have likely never heard of him. Yet Otto invented the internal combustion engine in 1876. Today, his invention continues to influence our way of life, our environment, urban and infrastructure planning, the global economy and even global geopolitics.
Now all of you have probably heard of the following two men - a German named Karl Benz and an American named Henry Ford.
You see, Otto’s innovation was, effectively, just sitting on a shelf accomplishing nothing. Then Karl Benz translated Otto’s work into practice by developing the world’s first car. Then Henry Ford translated Benz’s and Otto’s work into a product that he could manufacture at scale which completely transformed the way we live. The point is, the world you inherit has no shortage of engines. The shortage, however, are capacities to think like a Benz or act like a Ford. These types of leaders translate ideas into practice that change lives. Translation opportunities are especially true in Pakistan. Especially if you want to do your part in nation building.
As one of the youngest and the 6th most populous country in the world, we must do more than business as usual. We need to make the kind of difference your parents and teachers have made to you. In fact, we need to look no further than our alumni for inspiration on how to make a difference.
On the academic side, LUMS has produced more Fulbright scholars than any other university, anywhere in the world. More than 33 of them teach right here at LUMS.
On the entrepreneurship side, allow me to mention only two, who not long ago were wondering what to do after graduation. They went on to translate simple ideas that are now saving lives.
Musa Aamir, BSc ‘17, began his mission from the LUMS Pepsi Dining Centre (PDC) by collecting change in coins discarded by people. He teamed up with Huzaifa and Qasim and approached the LUMS administration to create a fund for the excess change received at PDC. Then they used the money to provide healthy lunches to children at government primary schools. You have probably heard of their organisation called Rizq; a food recovery and distribution service. Rizq has become a movement with student chapters in different cities within Pakistan and around the world.
So far, Rizq has provided over 1.5 million meals, saving more than 100,000 kilograms of food and channelled $350,000 worth of food philanthropy. Rizq has been recognised among the top 50 social enterprises of Pakistan, top 3 social enterprises of 2017-ENGRO ITAC and top 20 social enterprises of South Asia-SPRING Accelerators.
Or take Luqman Ali Afzal, who managed the ‘Khokha’, with only two employees, seventeen years ago at LUMS. Today, his Monal Group employs over 2,400 people at four restaurants, two banquet halls, and two amusement parks spread in Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Lahore. Luqman teaches at LUMS and incidentally also works with Rizq. Monal also manages a school and a hospital in Luqman’s ancestral village which is completely free and serves more than 500 patients each day.
There are many more examples. But today we celebrate your compelling stories. Tomorrow and the day after, as you make your difference in those you are destined to lead, we will look to your leadership.
On behalf of the teachers, parents and your friends at LUMS, we take immense pride in your accomplishments. Congratulations everyone! Now, go change your future. And with it, change the future of Pakistan.
Thank you. May God bless you.