Rector’s  Commencement  2017 remarks

ADA University
May 26, 2017
The Great Lawn
Dear graduates,
Dear families of our students,
Distinguished guests,
Our long time friends,
It gives me a great pleasure to welcome you all at the ADA University Commencement Ceremony!
This year we are graduating our biggest class –180  students in 4 academic programs.
Among graduates, in addition to Azerbaijan, we have representatives of Columbia, Gambia, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Russia,  Vietnam, The United Kingdom, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. I want to congratulate our graduates, wish them all the best in the future life and thank them for being good students of ADA University.
 Let’s give them all a special round of applause. 
Our ever-growing university family is known in this town as a community of values. Since day one, we have declared ADA as an institution where its members nourish themselves with knowledge, strive for excellence,   pursue innovative approaches,  use diversity as strength practice leadership through service to others, demonstrate high level of integrity and honor
We are united by these values. We seek out those people who share the same values with us.  We build teams with them and we lead the change together with more vigor and determination.
If you keep your values at the core of everything you do, then people will believe you, unite around you and make you and your goals stronger. This is what will put you in a different league. This is what will make you a “leader” not by authority, but by the ability to inspire the best in others. People will follow you, because they want to, not because they have to.
In our latest addition to this campus- Books and Bytes café in SPIA building, we recognize some leaders who serve as models for our community. One of them is  Haji Zeynalabdin Tagiyev, whose innovative approach and commitment to improving standards of living in the country is a testament to values we follow. He inspired us to name an award after him.
Tonight we gave these awards to only six projects. But I want you to know that to me you are all winners because you put our values at the core of your work.
At the beginning of the last century, outstanding Azerbaijanis like Uzeyir Hacibeyov, Jalil Mammadguluzade, Mirza Alakbar Sabir offered enlightenment and knowledge as a guidance forward. They ignited human values and progressive thoughts in people, that led to the formation of the first democracy in the Muslim World- Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. Next year, we are going to celebrate 100 years of our first independent Republic.
I sincerely hope that our students are inspired by that kind of leadership.  And, aside from their diplomas, they will take with them the set of ADA values to serve their country and their nation wherever they end up next.
Dear graduates,
of course, a university is not the first place where you are being introduced to the right values. The foundation of becoming a good citizen is built first and foremost in families. Respect, kindness, honesty, compassion- all of these moral values are instilled by your parents. So, I would like to take a moment here to recognize your families too.

Besides families there’s another important group of people who are directly responsible for your milestone achievement today is sitting behind me. University is a stage in young people’s lives when they reinvent their identity, step outside of their comfort zones and challenge their minds. And no one is more important in that process as teachers. Good teachers help us to develop our potentials and embrace our strengths. I am happy that at ADA we have teachers, who are not only knowledgeable experts but also profoundly good people that care deeply about their students.
After all, this is what 21st century’s “world- class education” is about. The academic environment should go beyond targeting higher test scores. Students should be engaged in a learning experience, which would help them to navigate easily through life.
Out of classrooms, ADA is building close ties with industry to translate our academic excellence into commercial success. Together with our partners we are working to create growth by cultivating human capital for increasingly knowledge-based economy.  I would especially like to thank those partners who are with us today for helping to prepare the next generation of global leaders.
“Offering world-class education” was the goal set to us by the government of Azerbaijan. I recall my meeting with President Ilham Aliyev in 2006, where he tasked us to build an institution that would give an opportunity to young people in this country to get the best education without ever having to leave their homes. Though founded as a Diplomatic Academy, President Aliyev believed that eventually, we would evolve into a full-fledged University graduating professionals in many fields.  I am happy to report that we have come through the task- as of the next year, engineers will also join the rows of graduating students.
Another participant of that meeting with President Aliyev is here today with us-Dr. Fred Starr- a person who has inspired the success of ADA and supported us with his friendship, collaboration and guidance. A great educator himself, a noted American scholar and an expert on global affairs, Dr. Starr quickly recognized Azerbaijan’s potential for a developed, modern, secular Muslim society, appreciated its key importance in the world energy security and its strategic role in tackling various international challenges.
Time has proven all of his expectations right. Baku has emerged as one of the centers for dialogue between civilizations, hosting regular interfaith forums. Just a few days ago we wrapped up 4th Islamic Solidarity Games, where Baku brought the entire Muslim World together in peace and unity.  And we did so by leading with our values of multiculturalism, tolerance and inclusiveness.
So, as you see Dr. Starr, you were right in placing your confidence in Azerbaijan.
Fred is a man of many talents. Aside from his outstanding academic and public record, he is an equally masterful musician. Dr. Starr traveled this time from the United States to join our celebration with his colleagues from the Louisiana Repertory Jazz Ensemble he founded.  But if I had to point out one single talent of Dr. Starr, I would have to say that it is a talent of being a true friend.
Thank you, Dr. Starr for all the years of friendship you extended to Azerbaijan and personally to me. Our friendship is strong, because of shared values.