[Video] H.E. Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al-Thani speaks to the Class of 2013

Speech Text

[In Arabic: In the name of Allah most merciful, peace be upon you.]

Your Excellencies, President Schapiro, Dean Dennis, members of faculty, parents and graduates: on behalf of the joint advisory board, congratulations, very well deserved.

It is a pleasure and an honor for me to stand here in front of you to share with you this very important milestone of your life.

There is a lot of celebration happening here. The biggest celebration is to see one of the biggest visions here: to build an education city that will have the best and brightest to be educated and to graduate, and we can see here one graduation after the other happening year after year. Not a long time ago it was just a vision of His Highness the Emir and Her Highness Sheikha Moza and we see this vision now realized and expanding even more.

More congratulations to you graduates—very well deserved. After years of study and exams and hard times it’s your day today. It’s your celebration, congratulations. But, I’m afraid I have some bad news for you and I want to break it now: The hard work begins now.

Let me talk to you about the field I come from. I come from media as all of you or most of you know, and media is still facing a lot of challenges. Freedom of press and freedom of expression have been well challenged over the last decades. Many countries don’t have freedom of press, or freedom of expression. Some other countries who do have them, don’t practice them very well, as they claim.

Talking about media and the challenges, why is media important anyway? We all know that media is something that changes people’s lives for the better, that’s what media should do. Is media doing this now? I don’t believe so.

Many, not all of them, but many have lost track. I’ll tell you why I’m telling you this now. Some media become biased, the others become commercialized. Those that become biased are biased because they work for commercial reasons. So if you want to work for commercial reasons, just be biased and it will work because it’s all about viewership, right? Some of them become an entertainer when I’m talking about news where the real news is lost in this world.

But, let me talk to you since we’re talking about the world. The world is facing a lot of challenges, as most of you know—poverty, war, climate change and many things. People die everywhere for no reason, innocent people. And what do we want for that? One of the biggest change agents is unbiased media. I believe that is a very real commodity right now in this day.

I’ll take an example from where I come from—Al Jazeera, when Al Jazeera started here in the Arab world. You know of the Big Bang theory? The theory that started the whole world? I believe Al Jazeera is the big bang of the Arab world. It started the whole free press in the Arab world. I always and often said to some people that you will not appreciate what Al Jazeera did for us or for the Arab world unless you are someone who lives in this world.

I believe you see a lot of changes happening now in the Arab world; free press certainly has a big role to play.

Now that’s only the Arab world? What about the world? The world is not facing some of these challenges? I believe there are a lot of challenges in the world. I used to be optimistic, but I believe that the war is yet come, and for that we do really want a free press.

Why am I telling you this graduates? Because the next coming decades are yours, it’s your time. I explained for you just in brief the importance of free press. Now is your time to shape your vision and, in fact it’s not only your vision, but the world’s vision and what you want to do if you work in media.

It is very important, very crucial, for a free strong press to tell the truth.

Ten years ago during the Iraq war, Al Jazeera was criticized. Ten years later the same people who said that Al Jazeera lied said that “we’re glad you’re doing what you’re doing.” Same people, same individuals. Because eventually the truth will prevail. But, at the time it is very difficult. It takes big courage to tell the truth.

Ask yourself this question, what is your role? What is your vision? What do you want to do? Remember that your pen, your keyboard and your word are stronger than any weapon you imagine. Take this from someone who works in media, because you are talking to people’s minds. That’s how powerful you can be. And that’s what you can play—that’s what your role can be. It’s not just a job; it’s something that can reshape the world. Ask yourself before you walk out from here, what is your vision? What do you want to do? What is your role? How can I make the world better by doing what I’m doing better?

I wish you all the best. I just shared some of the experiences or some of the challenges that you might face. As I told you I have for you bad news that the challenge is really ahead of you. If you know about Al Jazeera we lost a lot of journalists because they are seeking the truth. They are not in the crossfire. They were targeted because they want to tell the truth, targeted, most of them, in fact all of them are targeted because they want to tell the truth. They paid the ultimate price, the price of freedom press.

I wish you all the best and maybe we’ll see some of you walking in the corridor at Al Jazeera and welcome you again there.