2018 Commencement Speech: Lana Ghanem

Your Royal Highness, Dr. Austin, distinguished guests, honorable faculty and staff, proud parents, and last but certainly never least, the great graduating Class of 2018.

You did it! 

All those classes, essays, exams and all-nighters. And yet, here you are; you finished the race, you made it through. Now, you just have to listen to one more person talk — and I will do my best to make it short and sweet.

I want to thank you today for allowing me to be part of the conclusion of this chapter of your lives and the commencement of your next chapter. 

While some people say that life is made up of different chapters like those in a book, in my experience, life is more like a big canvas that you keep adding colors to as you grow. Every experience is another brush stroke that blends with the ones before.

At this important juncture in your lives, my one hope today is that I can provide you with a little bit of perspective based on my own experience. 

While I am expected to impart wisdom and advice to you today, there are many things that I actually can use your advice on, and can learn about from you. Every summer, I learn so much from the high school and college interns that we bring onboard. In fact, I learned all about the mechanics of blockchain technology from a King’s Academy graduate who interned at Hikma Pharmaceuticals last year. So, old or young, make sure you continuously learn from those around you. 

As you embark on the next stage of your lives, some of you may have no idea of what they want to do or be; and to those I say don’t worry.

I myself was an aspiring filmmaker and an investment banker at one point in time, before I found a job in healthcare venture capital that I’m truly passionate about. 

Now, I get up every morning looking forward to going to work because I love what I do and I work with people who continuously inspire me and challenge me.  

I can’t emphasize how important it is to surround yourself with people who challenge you, who will hit you on the head sometimes so that you don’t become complacent, and who will also give you a well-deserved pat on the back for your achievements, but will make sure you stay grounded. For me, these people are my parents, my brother, my two sisters and my mentors at work.

I am confident that you all have the talent and confidence that will eventually take you to where you are supposed to be, even if takes time to get there. So, don’t worry about it too much. The trick is to listen to your instinct, to grab the opportunity when it presents itself, and then give it your all.  

Have passion in whatever you do. Think about what excites you. Just remember that a fulfilling life can only be found at the intersection of what you love and what you're good at. 

It won’t be a smooth ride, it never is. You will certainly experience both defeat and triumph, sometimes on the same day. But remember that neither defeats nor triumphs last forever, they both pass and a new day arrives. In fact, many of those challenging situations that you will encounter will actually be blessings in disguise. Cherish them and learn from them. 

To achieve your personal best, you have to be persistent, push yourself and work hard at it every day while recognizing that you will have setbacks. And if you ever forget that, just look at Thomas Edison, whose most memorable invention was the light bulb. 

It took Edison 1,000 tries before he developed a successful prototype. And when he was asked: “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied: “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”  

So please believe in yourself and be optimistic, for optimism is such an important quality to have in the turbulent times that we live in today. 

Always make sure that you continuously evolve your way of thinking. To quote Charles Darwin: "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” 

I had to do a lot of learning, un-learning and re-learning when I moved into the world of venture capital. 

I had to unlearn many conservative methods towards making investments and relearn new ways of looking at new technologies. I had to learn to be more of a risk-taker and evaluate start-up companies with no history. I learned that when the team has a mission that is driven by impact and aims to transform people’s lives, whether it’s a telemedicine or artificial intelligence platform, the company will have a much higher chance of succeeding than one that is driven by economic reasons only. 

So, make sure you have a meaningful mission in whatever you do and work with people who have the same values. No matter what happens, never compromise your values for they are the base that will always hold your canvas together. 

You are lucky to be graduating during a time that is characterized by disruptive innovation and where embracing change is the norm. Therefore, you have the luxury to be unconventional. 

In the next phase of your life, you will find yourself outside your comfort zone and in unchartered territory. Nevertheless, don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled. 

You are blessed to be graduating from King’s Academy, which has prepared you to become global leaders and ambassadors. His Majesty King Abdullah II’s vision of creating a school that is built on the foundations of diversity, a great sense of community and one that is acting as an engine for positive change should propel you to make a difference in the world and in other people’s lives.  

I left Jordan when I was 18 and after 9 years of living abroad, I decided that I wanted to come back home because I felt like it’s a place where I can paint the most meaningful and authentic strokes on my canvas and I’m grateful for being given the opportunity to lead Hikma Ventures.  

I believe that Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, said it best about leading any enterprise or group. She said: “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”

With leadership comes great responsibility, so please remember to be kind and to be grateful and put your education to good use by giving back. 

Giving is not all confined to material things. You can give your time. You can give your patience. You can give by listening to others and by being there for someone you care for.  

So please choose a life that is more focused on giving and I promise, you will be happier.

Graduating Class of 2018: As much as today is a celebration of you and what you’ve accomplished, none of it would have been possible without the strong support of the people who nurtured you, cheered you on and believed in you. 

Look around, they are your teachers, your parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and friends. These people will always be your backbone in life and will always help you gain perspective no matter where life takes you.

Lastly, please make sure that every brush stroke on your canvas counts, and go ahead towards the next stage in your life and continue adding colors to your canvas, and make it your own masterpiece. 

Good luck and congratulations!


Last updated
June 12, 2018