Monday, July 10, 2017

Class of 2017, I do have a special affinity with you since, four years ago, we started this journey of LUMS together. In the “modified” words of Dr. Seuss, eminent American author of kids books, “Oh the places we have been!”

Trials and tribulations, the highs and the lows. How many vigils we stood in, our hearts split by the tragedies. We struggled with the issues of “hate speech” and “freedom of expression,” we wrestled with sexual harassment and the lines crossed by those in power.

Together with the terrorists who wished to enter our campuses, the menace of drugs reared its ugly head too. We had a tweet storm of our own when I became the most hated person in Pakistan. OK, that was not fun!
But I am sure, each of you has a story to share. I will borrow here from the address given by the US Chief Justice John Roberts at the high school graduation of his son dealing with lessons learnt from misfortunes, mistakes, bad luck, happenstance and voodoo dolls.

Surely in these years you have been treated unfairly at times. Has this brought to fore the value of justice in you?

Some of you may have been betrayed by people you trusted, which made you appreciate the importance of loyalty in relationships.

It probably was not easy going all the time. Perhaps there were times when you were sitting alone in your room, feeling the pressure of the world pressing in? True friendship, is a blessing and deserves to be cherished.

Sometimes your only mistake may have been to just be at the wrong place at the wrong time; all your explanations falling on deaf ears. That is how the dice of life plays; it is not fair and it is not equal. Success may not be completely deserved, neither Failure.

I love to play sports and some of my squash partners sit in this august audience today. What I cherished was that no matter who won and lost, there was no gloating; the sportsman’s spirit was the unifying force.
Some of you are introverts, others extroverts but no matter what your personality type, no one likes to be ignored; listening mindfully, so that the other person feels heard, is a crucial life skill and will serve you well in life.

And there has been pain and loss; did it bring you closer to compassion or revenge?

In the great words of Nelson Mandela, “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” I would add, what lessons did you learn from that “falling down?”
Today, we celebrate those who have excelled academically, demonstrating the potent combination of brilliance, discipline, hard work and the ability to get up, when down. It is a recognition that you will carry with you for the rest of your life, proudly listing it in every document that you compile about yourself. What is more important, however, is the discipline of hard work and an attitude to pursue excellence that has now become a way of life for you.

Tonight represents the culmination of a journey that you started in the arms of your parents, decades back. They were there before for you and through the years at LUMS. Perhaps you forgot to call or message them, as you eagerly jumped from one activity to another but they never forgot. They were there to hold you when you fell, and wiped away your tears as disappointment stared you in the face. They always believed in you and you have honoured their belief in you. This is a proud day for the parents of the prize holders, as it is for the parents of all graduates. No praise and recognition of the role parents played to make tonight happen, is enough.

Hard work and perseverance does indeed pay off. You may have forgotten but I do remember those lines around the RO office to enrol in classes. An App does make life easier now, as does the ubiquitous Wi-Fi, online payment options. In the sports field the temperature controlled environment of the new swimming pool does provide the perfect antidote to the hot, hotter and humid Lahori climate. You are the batch that experience three to a room and then moved to the new student quarters. Yes, much has changed because there are good people who wish it so, work for it and quietly invest in the future of this country; You.

There will always be people in life looking at the glass half empty and not half full. The world will never live up to their expectations.  For those people my advice would be to look inwards to understand the source of discontent, which resides within.

That is where you, the graduates of 2017, come in. You can take the high road this country is destined to take. You are luminites and the country looks to you as the leaders who will make the promised change happen. Remember the values this institution stands for and this mantle of leadership will not sit heavy on your shoulders and you will embrace your destiny.

I leave you with some advice from Justin Trudeau, “Worried about what you are going to be. Figure out who you are going to be. The rest will follow”.