ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The American University of Kurdistan (AUK) held its first-ever graduation ceremony on Thursday, an event attended by multiple dignitaries who congratulated the new diploma-holders and the institution as a whole.
"It is a matter of great pride that we have been able to bring world-class opportunities in education to the young people of Kurdistan," said Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani in a speech.
Barzani, also the chairman of AUK's Board of Trustees, added, "I am proud to be standing here before you today as an American University graduate myself." The prime minister graduated from American University in Washington, DC in 1997.
Founded in Duhok province in 2014 as a not-for-profit higher learning institution, AUK states it "aims to mold the next generation of leaders through challenging coursework, up-to-date methodologies, and exceptional faculty."
Barzani continued, "The people in universities can do so much. They can develop new sustainable environmental models that allow us to grow our economy while protecting our natural heritage. They can create innovative startups that generate jobs and help families live independent and dignified lives. They can strengthen our connection with our culture and history, deepening our understanding of who we are and where we come from."
Matthew H. Tueller, the United States Ambassador to Iraq, also addressed the graduates, stressing the institution's goal "to establish a culture of respect and a culture of respect."
"Every person has value and every person is flawed, but we can all learn from one another. In fact, we often learn the most from those with whom we disagree," he said.
"We like to say at the embassy in Bagdhad that we are one team, one mission. It is incredibly empowering to help create something bigger than yourself and then be an active part of a greater entity," said the diplomat.
"Your generation, graduates, faces a heavy burden," Tueller continued. "This beautiful country, to which many different people and religions trace their roots, has been through a difficult time, especially in recent years, but it is bouncing back."
"Where there are opportunities, seize them; where you don't see opportunities, create them; and where there are needs, strive to address them."