Allow me to officially welcome each of you to the 14th Commencement Ceremony of the American University of Nigeria. My name is Dr. DeWayne Frazier and I am proud to officially serve as the Vice Chancellor and President of our prestigious university. My career as taken me all over the world, to over 40 countries, but never in all my travels have I been WELCOMED in such a way as I have been in Nigeria. From our students, faculty/ staff and the people of this wonderful country, it is with all the kindness and love in my heart that I say thank you for making me feel at home so quickly and for treating me as family. I love to hear my Nigerian brothers and sisters say, “Welcome, you are welcome here”. It truly touches my heart.
Home to Africa’s largest population, democracy, and economy, Nigeria is one of our most important partners for the United States. Nigeria’s stability and prosperity are inseparable from that of the entire region. Nigeria is the third largest democracy in the world in total population, only following behind the India and the United States. Did you know that there are more than 500,000 Nigerian-born American citizens and lawful residents in the United States. With more than 100,000 travelers to the United States each year, Nigerians boost American businesses, colleges, and universities. According to our U.S. Embassy, Nigeria sends more students to U.S. colleges and universities than any other country in Africa and is the eleventh largest source country worldwide of international students to the United States.
With this close of relationship, it would only be natural that an American style university be established in this great country. And today, I get to share the stage with the man who not only had that dream, but he made it a reality in 2004 when he founded the American University of Nigeria, right here in Yola. It is with the greatest of honor, that I take this moment to publicly to say Thank You to His Excellency, Our Founder, Mr. Atiku Abubakar for investing in the youth of not only this country but the world. Your legacy will never be forgotten with us and we are eternally grateful for your vision and generosity (LEAD AN APPLAUSE).
This dream, the dream of an American University right here in Nigeria is one of the most important and profound in 21st century Nigerian education. Our students get the best of both worlds, a university with a uniquely designed American curriculum that focuses on a student learner-based system full of real world experience and classroom engagement that you will not find outside of the walls of our campus. We have assembled a team of world class faculty and staff to not only provide the students an education comparable to any university in the continent of Africa, but also comparable to any university in the United States. Take it from me, I have over 25 years of experience in American higher education, and the people here are absolutely first-rate scholars, leaders and people. Our faculty and staff are not here for riches and fame, they are all here for one reason, to empower the next generation of leaders for the future. At AUN, we do not expect student to regurgitate information through rote memorization, we expect them to think critically, synthesize information and work collaboratively to solve problems that do not even exist today. If you are a faculty or staff member of AUN please stand so we can give you a round of applause for your dedication to these amazing students. (LEAD the APPLAUSE)
The University's core values of Development, Leadership, and Entrepreneurship are on full display today as we have the opportunity to honor all of these outstanding graduates.
(Look at the Graduates) Now for a few moments, I would like to speak directly to the graduates.
I have discovered quickly in my short time here, that my Nigerian friends can make any food spicy. Who knew that rice could be so tasty and be a five-alarm fire in your mouth at the same time. I absolutely love Jollof Rice and there is no place in the world makes it better than you all. Just like Nigerians are some of the best cooks in the world, West Africans are some of the best students I have encountered in my two decades in higher education.
Did you know that only 6.7% of the people in the world have a college degree? You will walk across this stage today and become one of that percentage, but never forget, learning never ends. One of my favorite world leaders in history, said it this way.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” -Mahatma Gandhi
In a few hours, you all will leave this campus, but you will leave it as a much different person than you arrived four years ago. Not only will you have a much more in-depth body of knowledge and a plethora of new and impressive words you can say, but more importantly, you are leaving this place as a better person. You have earned an education, nothing was given to you here, you earned every credit and every grade and when you have the diploma in hand, you can hold your head high and know you have accomplished a great feat. But, no person is an island, no one gets here by accident, and we owe a great debt to God and our family. I am the father of six children and of all my accomplishments in life, they are frail in comparison when I see my children succeed. I know it is the same you’re your family who is in this great hall today. Graduates, please give a round applause for all your family and loved ones that help make this day possible for you through their prayers, financial support, love and guidance.
Life is a constant journey, and it will not be easy, as you will have your ups and your downs. Find people in your life, like your family and your AUN family that you can talk to and seek support and guidance. Just because you are graduating, you must not lose contact with us, you are forever bonded to this university as a part of our family and you matter here yesterday, today and tomorrow. There is no AUN with you, the students, and I cannot tell you how proud we all are you all. Take a moment, take a breath, and look around this room at the thousands of people that are here to not hear my welcome, but they are here for you because you matter, you are important and you are the future of not only Nigeria, but the entire African continent and world.
I will end my welcome today with a short story for you. In the famed movie, and one of my favorites, Spider-man, we learn of Peter Parker receiving powers than make him into a superhero. As you will recall, he was raised by his elderly uncle and aunt, and when Peter receives this advice, it is something that is applicable to each of you today as well. Uncle Ben learns of the powers that Peter receives to become Spider-man and he gives his this sage advice, “With great power, comes great responsibility”. People can take many things from you in terms of worldly possessions, but they can never take away this education you have earned.
What will you do with this great power that you now possess? Will you use it to make a difference in others lives? Will you use this great power to make the world a better place? Will you use this great power to earn a job and build wealth so you can invest in people’s lives? Will you use this great power to make Nigeria and the world a better place? Mother Teresa once said,
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
Take this great power you have of education, work together, change this world and make it a better place. All of us are so very proud of you and Congratulations on this momentous day, the most important day in the life of a university, Graduation Day. Well done my dear students.