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Ambassador Fisher's Remarks at the American University of Beirut – Mediterraneo Campus Opening Ceremony
September 6, 2023

The United States is proud of our strong bilateral relationship with the Republic of Cyprus, an anchor for stability, prosperity, and democracy in the Eastern Mediterranean and beyond. People-to-people ties between the United States and Cyprus are foundational to our successes, and when we expand educational opportunities, we advance our shared values, shared security, and shared prosperity.

We too are proud of our long partnership with the American University of Beirut, a regional model and beacon of American values and educational standards. For more than 150 years, AUB has provided high-quality, American-style education to students from around the world.

Throughout its history, AUB has produced graduates that become global citizens, who serve as leaders in academia, governments, the private sector, civil society, and fields of science. AUB graduates give back to their communities through their service in hospitals, schools, refugee camps, scientific research, and pioneering entrepreneurship.

In 1862, American missionaries in Lebanon and Syria laid the groundwork to establish a college of higher learning in Lebanon. In 1863, the State of New York granted a charter under the name Syrian Protestant College, which in 1920 would be renamed the American University of Beirut. Established in 1866 with a class of 16 students, this University has since provided education to more than 74,000 alumni, who reside in more than 115 countries around the world.

And today, 53 new students from 12 different countries immediately join that network, that family. And you join that family from this first-of-its-kind Mediterraneo campus in Cyprus – chosen out of 15 countries for its safety, academic freedom, its strong emphasis on enhancing education, a strong alumni presence, and access to a wide range of research grants and funding. I am thrilled for your opportunity.

The American support to AUB, surpassing $150 million over the last two decades, has helped students from throughout the Middle East and North Africa to obtain full scholarships and access an American-style educational experience.

Since 2010, through support from USAID, over 700 academically meritorious high school graduates with financial need have received scholarships to attend AUB, allowing students from lower income families to open doors previously closed to them, excel in their academics, and reach new heights in their careers.

And through the Middle East Partnership Initiative, the Tomorrow’s Leaders Undergraduate and Graduate scholarship programs for leadership training build a cadre of community, business, and national leaders who are civic-minded, intellectually able, and professionally skilled. These programs quite literally teach, nurture, and help shape those students who will soon lead in the region.

I’m thrilled that AUB Mediterraneo will be the first university here in Cyprus to open with an American liberal arts education model, teaching those intangible skills which I think our universities promote so well – skills of questioning broadly and thinking critically – tools that will allow students to navigate the world’s most complex issues.

This University’s teachings encourage freedom of thought and expression, and foster tolerance and respect for diversity. Values that are deeply rooted in American society and higher education.

We applaud AUB’s historic and pioneering role in women’s education in the Middle East, because we know that women’s equality, participation, and empowerment are essential components of every society. These values in practice strengthen societal structures and ensure prosperous futures.

The United States maintains its commitment to international education and will continue to support Cyprus’ efforts of becoming an educational hub in Europe, as well as AUB’s goal of becoming a truly international institution.

I want to commend this University and its leadership for making education accessible and available, and keeping it that way – even in times of war and strife. Americans have sacrificed for that commitment, for the cause of furthering education, and access to education, in this region – some have paid the ultimate price. The opening of this campus is the embodiment of how that sacrifice and dedication has led to expansion, promise, opportunity, and brighter futures for students in the region – so “that they might have life in abundance.”

As the American University of Beirut – Mediterraneo campus opens its doors and welcomes its first students here in Cyprus, I wish continued success, excellence, and abundance to AUB and its students in this new chapter.

We cannot wait to see what you will do next.