As the minutes ticked down to the start of the 10th King’s Academy Commencement ceremony, held under the patronage of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II ’12, the number of people on campus swelled to the thousands as excited family and friends flocked to Commencement Lawn to watch the Class of 2019 graduate.
Numbering 167 graduates, the Class of 2019 represents King’s largest graduating class to date. The senior class was made up of 89 male and 78 female students, representing 17 diverse nationalities and cultures. Students hailed from near — Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Oman, Palestine, Saudi Arabia — and far: Afghanistan, China, Germany, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Nigeria, Spain and the United States.
It was a poignant moment for Head of School John Austin as he addressed those gathered for the last time in his capacity as head of King’s Academy. In the fall, he will take on the position of headmaster at Deerfield Academy in the US. Congratulating the graduating class, Austin thanked them for their “engagement, creativity, initiative and everyday leadership.”
“It is you, our students, who give expression to all our collective work on your behalf; it is you who give it shape, make it whole, and complete it,” Austin told the Class of 2019. “Yes, we create for you conditions of possibility; but you seize them, you shape those opportunities to your own purpose.”
“Will you, in the words of our guiding principles, ‘use your education to help and enhance possibilities for others’ to ‘steward what you have received and pass on this stewardship to others’?” continued Austin. “We know you will. Because we need you, because the growing good of the world depends upon you, and, most of all, because we believe in you.”
In his Arabic oration, Nadeem Al-Billeh ’19 began by thanking the founder of the school, His Majesty King Abdullah II, for his belief in young people and their role in building the country and for providing them with pathways to excellence as a means to do that. In a heartfelt and poetic address, Al-Billeh extended his gratitude to the school, teachers and parents, including his late father who he knew had dearly wished to see him graduate, before urging his peers not to forget King’s, “our second home.”
“Our community is like a mosaic; we each represent a single piece, but only when each piece is present is the picture whole,” he said. “Be the sons and daughters of this land. Soar like birds, but do not forget where you came from, your ancestors and your roots. There is no warmer embrace than in the lap of your homeland.”
During her English oration, Hiba Al-Jarrah ’19 spoke of the expectations she and her classmates had as freshmen and how in the years since, although they may not have met those exact expectations, they had in fact surpassed anything they could have imagined accomplishing.
“While we may not have maintained a 4.0 on a grade scale, we have exceeded all scales related to analytically researching information, listening to different perspectives, developing evidence-based arguments, and discussing the complexities of real-world issues,” she said. “We have learned that living a life of substance isn’t correlated with the letters on report cards or with the numbers on standardized test scores, but instead, it is heavily based on one’s ability to be an intellectual learner.”
Austin then presented the two most prestigious awards given during Commencement: The Academy Cup, which was awarded to Ahmad Al Khatib ’19 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 Roa’a Al Kilani ’19 for “fully embodying the ethos, spirit and guiding principles of the Academy.”
Next to take the floor to give the Commencement address was His Royal Highness Prince Talal bin Mohammad, former director of the National Security Council and National Security Advisor to His Majesty King Abdullah II. HRH Prince Talal, who is also father to King’s alumnus Hussein Talal ’18 and to this year’s graduates Muhammad and Raja’a Talal ’19, offered the graduating class his thoughts on some core values he believes may give them courage when they are far from family and home.
“Remember that you are Jordanians!” Prince Talal said, reminding King’s international students that they are also honorary Jordanians. “We may not be a large country, nor a wealthy one, but we are a brave people, and we are proud and honored to share whatever we have with those who have lost everything.”
“Now, don’t just tell them who you are, show them! Show them by your behavior, by always demonstrating the quiet self-confidence that comes from self-awareness and self-respect. When you know who you are, and this is most important, behave accordingly, then everybody else will also know it too, and treat you accordingly.”
“So, while you should never apologize for who you are, where you come from, or the beliefs and traditions of your forefathers, always be quick to ask the pardon of any that you hurt,” continued Prince Talal. “Do not go out in search of enemies or quarrels, nor take offense where none is meant. Better to receive an insult or an injury than to give one.”
Finally, Prince Talal advised the Class of 2019 to “accept every exchange in the spirit that it is offered, meeting kindness with kindness, and the humble with humility. Be cheerful and approachable, but avoid those who would deceive you, or be the thieves of your joy and your dignity. Be generous, be brave, but always remain aware.”
This year’s graduates are off to some of the world’s most reputable colleges and universities, including Stanford University, Harvard University, Brown University, Columbia, U Penn, Duke University, McGill University, University of Edinburgh, University of Toronto, Northwestern University, Wellesley College, Claremont McKenna College University, New York University, Tufts University, Georgetown University, Lehigh University, University College London, University of Notre Dame, King’s College London, University of Rochester, George Washington University, UCLA, IE University (Spain), University of Southern California and Swarthmore College 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 $3.6 million to be used during their four-year matriculations.