So I graduated this weekend along with like 1,400 or more people. Things were good and pretty fun, but I’d have to say that the highlight of the weekend was being in Noam Chomsky’s presence. I have seen the man three days straight and each time was even more exciting than the last. Thrice I heard him speak: once at the graduate ceremony from afar, once at my own ceremony, and the third time today at UNESCO Palace in Beirut. The third I actually had the chance to speak with him on language, and I took full advantage of that opportunity. Before that, here are some more details:
The first speech he gave I couldn’t understand a thing he said on account of his voice being very soft and low, the sound system being low-tier and my being far away. Now for the second day: Chomsky’s speech was eloquent, if nothing entirely new. In it, he challenged the legitimacy of national borders by providing a very amusing anecdote of how he and his wife, when hiking in the Galilee region, accidentally ended up in southern Lebanon. He also went on to criticize U.S. and Israeli foreign policy, as he is wont to do. On the third day (today) he took questions regarding the current situation in Syria and Hezbollah’s involvement in it. I myself posed the question of the involvement of other players in the conflict (i.e., Turkey, K.S.A., Egypt, etc…/anyone besides the U.S. and Russia), to which he answered that it would be against their interest in intervening or having anyone intervene. The air was thick with dumb and redundant questions and I felt like sleeping at some point, but overall it was an interesting experience. Afterwards, I got to ask him whether or not culture had an influence on language acquisition, from which we briefly discussed to the Whorf-Sapir hypothesis. While he wasn’t able to give a certain and complete response to that question due to the lack of evidence supporting it, he still answered my question to the best of his abilities and was honest and generous in his response. In a nutshell, meeting Noam Chomsky was a huge honor and pleasure and I hope I somehow get to meet him again, hopefully for a one-on-one on language and such.
And now, for a sappy graduation speech that I decided to post here instead of on Facebook:
I came to AUB four years ago confused, naive, idealistic, and lost. I had no idea what I wanted to do, didn’t know how the world worked, and didn’t have many friends outside of my very small and exclusive circle of friends. Over time, that knowledge of the world grew with me, as did that circle of friends. It was in these four years I realized my calling in academia, science, and in music (even if just by extension). I grew and matured more in those four years than I did in the eleven years I’ve lived in Lebanon and any point of time before that. I am very grateful to have studied at AUB and to have spent that time with the people that I did, and to have had the experiences I had-for better or for worse. Without them, I wouldn’t be the person I am today but, to be crippled in the face of any challenge that will arise with the passage of time. There’s a very good chance I won’t see many of you again or for a very long time (if ever), but I will forever be grateful to have known those who of you who count, who have made this experience one of the best anybody could ask for. Thank you, one and all, and good luck in trampling whatever challenges lie ahead of you. Until we meet again.
Y’all take care now