ADMINISTRATOR POWER: I don't know that I've ever felt so proud as to have this affiliation with these two incredible institutions. And so, thank you for welcoming me here today. Thank you for giving us, as USAID, and us, as the U.S. government, the privilege of partnering with you and supporting such incredible students, as the alums I guess, that we just heard from. So, I'm going to make a few remarks here. And then, I'm really looking forward to the discussion period. I enjoyed the music. Thank you for it. Hope there's more.
And I want to begin just by thanking Dr. Zaher Dawie and Dr. Michel Mawad for inviting me here today and for the warm welcome. This visit has been scheduled a couple other times and various real world events have forced us to move the schedule and everybody's just been so flexible and so welcoming, and so, I thank you and I apologize for any inconvenience.
I'm really struck, already, in my interactions on the campus with you and in hearing from Regina and Antonio – just the spirit of service that one can feel here on this campus. When I'm not serving in the U.S. government myself, I'm a professor at the Kennedy School of Government, the Kennedy School of Public Service at Harvard University, and so feel very privileged myself to be engaging year to year with students who are in the United States dedicated to this service. But I feel it here, just as palpably there. And of course, the set of challenges that the Lebanese people are facing right now makes this calling that so many of you feel to give back and to make your country better, just so, so very important.
Every year, the British dictionary Collins, picks a word that defines the year, and in 2022, the word that they've chosen is perma-crisis. And, something tells me that this is a word that has resonance here in light of what the people of this great country have gone through over the years. Just the political stagnation, sclerosis, infighting, the economic mismanagement, and coercion, having a pandemic – once in a century pandemic, on top of that, the horrifying port explosion and the searing loss of life. This is, really – you have bad luck, insofar as you are graduating, entering a world, entering a job market in a country that is suffering the worst economic crisis, in not only in Lebanon in more than 150 years, but even globally, to see this kind of precipitous economic decline.
And yet, you have not met that phenomenon with despair. You have met it with action, with that same spirit that we heard in the two presentations a minute ago. And, here I know I won't capture everybody who is stepping up, but let me offer a few examples that I've been inspired by. Elena, who in the aftermath of the port explosion, Elena volunteered with a local organization to cook and distribute food to underprivileged communities and with the Servants of Society campaign at LAU, which I know many of you are a part of, armed with shovels and buckets, she helped sort through blasted holes in homes to clean up rubble and to make repairs – that's incredible. Mahmoud Basma, who in the early days of the pandemic volunteered with the Lebanese Red Cross, to help transport those with COVID-19 from his hometown in Tyre, South Lebanon to Rafik Al Hariri University Hospital here in Beirut. He has since conducted awareness sessions to minimize the spread of COVID and work to limit transmission in Tyre. Or Amir Salameh, who in the wake of the economic crisis created a new organization of young activists called, “Our Target Is Humans”, who have worked to distribute food and medicine to disadvantaged families.
Of the many, many graduates who have gone on from these institutions to serve as prime ministers, ambassadors, presidents, Nobel Peace Prize winners, and academics, they each got their start here, just like you, finding a way to serve and to create change. Since 2010, USAID has had this privilege of providing scholarships to more than 1,600 changemakers. And today, I am pleased to announce that USAID will provide $50 million for Lebanese and refugee students to attend AUB, LAU, and Notre Dame University-Louaize. Of this $50 million, $15 million will go toward 140 full undergraduate scholarships for economically disadvantaged, but academically distinguished students to attend AUB and LAU. The remainder of the funds will go toward partial needs-based financial aid for about 3,500 students over the next three years to help those whose education might be threatened by the country's current economic woes, and who can no longer afford full tuition because of the economic situation. If Lebanon is to recover in the months and years ahead, which we know it will, it will not only be because political leaders finally prioritize the people of this country over their party, or their personal power, or their sex, but it will also be because young people like you choose to stay and serve your communities and your country as it works to recover and to rebuild.
Also, maybe some of you will not run away from politics, which has so disappointed so many, for such a long period of time, but maybe to inject a different kind of integrity and spirit of service and impact, and a desire to always look out for the human consequences of decision making when privileged to be in positions of leadership. So, we look forward, as the United States and as USAID, in standing by you. We have a tremendous ambassador, her team here in Ambassador Shea, and Eileen, our USAID Mission Director, always looking for how we also help adapt as you adapt, showing Lebanon's characteristic dynamism.
And, what is unfortunately having to be drawn upon more and more – Lebanon's characteristic resilience. You are famous for both, and both are on display. But, we feel incredibly fortunate to be your partners. We learn from you, every day we have the chance to work with you. And, so I feel really, really grateful to be here today, it's the part of my visit I was most looking forward to. Don't tell the other stops on the visit. And, we know that these educational institutions are equipping you with the tools that you need to take on some pretty tough odds right now out in the world. And we can't wait to see how you put those tools to use to make your country and your communities better. Thank you so much, looking forward to the discussion.