At Ninth Commencement, graduates embrace change and reject complacency

The scorching heat gave way to a cooling breeze on Wednesday evening, just in time for the thousands of family members and friends congregating on Commencement Lawn to celebrate the graduation of the Class of 2018, held under the patronage of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II ’12.

Headmaster John Austin addressed the 147 students making up the largest graduating class of King’s Academy to date, congratulating them on their many achievements and thanking them for their “spirit, energy, initiative, and hunger for excellence.” Austin also took a moment to thank the school’s Board of Trustees, staff, students and families that make up the school community.

“As much as today is a celebration of you and your class, it is also a celebration of this community, and of the power of communities to support and challenge, nurture and transform,” said Austin. “We create communities, and our communities in turn make us. And when they are strong and vibrant — as this one is — they give us strength and courage; they enable us to discover our best selves; they sustain us with hope and love; they imbue within us a sense of possibility and optimism.”

In his Arabic oration, Mohammad Shdaifat ’18 expressed gratitude while delivering a lyrical, yet powerful — and frequently amusing — speech in which he recalled many of the moments that the Class of 2018 is sure to look back on as they head around the world to begin their university careers.

“Thank you to this institution; it was our family and a home to each one of us,” said Shdaifat. “We don’t know how to thank you. Thanks to every friend we met while we were here. Thanks to every teacher for lighting our path, in the classroom, in the auditorium, or even on the field. Thanks for all these moments that we shared together. Thanks to His Majesty’s vision and belief in us, which will light our way. We are truly appreciative of all of that, and that, one day, we will be the leaders of change.”

Speaking about lessons learned during their years at King’s Academy in her English oration, Hanan Dudin ’18 exhorted her class to celebrate the changes that are still to come, and to stop at nothing.

“I am hopeful that the next revolutionary, the next renegade, the next rebel, is sitting among us poised to disrupt and disobey,” said Dudin. “The question is not if we will be able to recognize injustice, or if we can coherently rebuke opposing opinions, the question is if we will summon the courage to speak in forums and venues that do not welcome our voices.”

“As we move forward, I hope we possess the bravery and the tenacity to speak when we are unheard, unwanted and unrecognized,” she continued.

Austin then presented the two most prestigious awards given during Commencement: The Academy Cup, which was awarded to Rand Al-Harahsheh ’18 for being a “leading scholar whose academic work has been characterized by deep scholarship, curiosity, and a love of learning,” and the King Abdullah II Award, which went to Omar Abdelaal ’18 for “fully embodying the ethos, spirit and guiding principles of the Academy.”

Next to take the floor to give the Commencement address was Lana Ghanem, director of corporate strategy and development at Hikma Pharmaceuticals, and who was, this year, named one of the leading venture capitalists in the MENA region. Ghanem offered the graduates words of advice and what she said she hoped was a bit of perspective based on her experience.

“I can’t emphasize how important it is to surround yourself with people who challenge you, who will hit you on the head sometimes so that you don’t become complacent, and who will also give you a well-deserved pat on the back for your achievements, but will make sure you stay grounded,” said Ghanem.

She encouraged the graduates to make sure that they continuously evolve their way of thinking, recounting how much learning, un-learning and re-learning she had to do when she changed careers. 

“I had to unlearn many conservative methods towards making investments and relearn new ways of looking at new technologies. I had to learn to be more of a risk-taker. I learned that when the team has a mission that is driven by impact and aims to transform people’s lives, the company will have a much higher chance of succeeding than one that is driven by economic reasons only.” 

“So, make sure you have a meaningful mission in whatever you do, and work with people who have the same values,” said Ghanem. “No matter what happens, never compromise your values for they are the base that will always hold your canvas together.”

This year’s graduates are off to some of the world’s most reputable colleges and universities, including London School of Economics, McGill University, University of Toronto, Brown University, Yale University, University of Michigan, Columbia University, Northwestern University, Wellesley College, Pomona University, New York University, Boston College, Georgetown University, Lehigh University and Wesleyan University, to name a few.

In addition to receiving a wide range of acceptances from top institutions, seniors also earned an impressive amount of financial aid awards and scholarships, totaling around US $2.5 million to be used during their four-year matriculations.