Commencement Speech of Mr Selim Bassoul for the graduating class of 2019 Collège Notre-Dame de Jamhour

Commencement Speech for the Graduating Class of 2019

Commencement Speech of Mr Selim Bassoul for the graduating class of 2019 at Collège Notre-Dame de Jamhour

Mr President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun,
Reverend Rector,
Reverend priests,
Dear parents and friends,
Dear graduating class of 2019,
I have the honor to be with you this evening for this memorable celebration, in the place where it all began for me.
I would never have believed that one day I would be standing in front of you as the commencement speaker of a graduating class at Jamhour. It is a miracle, specially in the presence of the First Lebanese, His Excellency The President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun.
I salute you Mr. President and I thank you for your presence amongst us today.
This college that I never liked, that I even hated, where I spent 13 years of my early life, is honoring me today. What a paradox!
I never liked Jamhour because I was a turbulent, a dyslexic, an attention deficit and a hyperactive child. My grades were mediocre, not to say awful.
Brought up in a family of modest means and surrounded with bright and rich kids at school,I suffered a lot in this College.
Unable to adapt to the rules and the requirements of the school, I went from failures, to dismissals, and to depressions.
But despite this ugly picture, there were a few people in this school who still believed in me.
One of those was the reverend Father Jean Dalmais, who is amongst us tonight. He insisted on having me complete my education at Jamhour. He mentored me and he provided  an unflinching support to my mother and to me.
My mother spent each year pleading my case with the school directors and administrators for them to give me second chances.
Mama, a heartfelt thank you!
Another supporter was Father Madet.
He told my dad who came to see him one day and to thank him for his mentorship of me: “Selim will go very far. The world will speak of your son, Mr. Bassoul. You shall see.”
That was a prophecy. It ended it being true.
Can you imagine being the bottom of the class at Jamhour to becoming the valedictorian at AUB and at Kellogg Northwestern University in Chicago.
And at the early age of 38,  I was named CEO of the Middleby corporation, the global leader of industrial appliances and the leader of robotics in the USA.
I owe all of this to Father Madet.
I have to confess that certain jesuits have a unique intuition. They are like X-Ray machines. They see what we can’t see.
What you don’t know about me,  Father Dalmais can validate today is that:
In 100 years, no one had ever failed the baccalaureate at Jamhour and until my arrival in the class of terminale, I became  the first and only student at Jamhour to fail at the baccalaureate. I broke that record.
Then the civil war in Lebanon started a few months later. Having no official diploma nor access to any financial aid, my fate seemed almost condemned.
However, this student who has failed in every aspect of his education changed the equation. He was able to turn his complete school failure to the ultimate professional success.
In essence, you will have hard times finding a jamhour student worse than me;
“ if I made it, you all can make it”
I urge you to think out of the box, to be creative, to be contrarian, to be bold, to take risks, to fail and to stand up, to fail again and to stand up again.
Dear students, this college taught me the discipline, the hard work, theknow how, the ambition but mostly thegive back.
The Jesuits did not tell me what to think, they taught me how to think.
This college forged in me the sense of friendship that I built with a few classmates of mine for over 50 years. One of those friends is here amongst us this tonight, Mr. Anis Barakat. This bond of friendship is unique to this college. These are lifelong friendships.
I remember in The Godfather movie, Don Corleone telling his son Michael the following:
“You do not choose your family,but you can choose your friends. Friendship is as important as family. My son, choose well.”
And in this colllege, you have the opportunity to choose well.
To the young graduates, I invite you to move around, to travel, to explore new horizons.
 But never forget your roots.
My own experience taught me that the Lebanese can leave Lebanon, but Lebanon will never leave the heart of the Lebanese.
I have traveled the world, from China to the USA….
40 years later, I never forgot where I came from.
Dear parents, we share something in common tonight. My son Antoine is also graduating next week with a MBA. My daughter Christiane is starting  a new career this Monday. Like your children, they are beginning a new chapter in their lives.
The first advice I gave Antoine and Christiane is to be patient and persévérant. The big and true accomplishments require hard work, strong will and love.
The second advice I gave my son and daughter, beyond patience, is humility. True success doesn’t go well with arrogance nor prétention.
As I told my children, I say to you:
Keep your feet on the ground to reach the highest summits.
The most decent people are those who kept simple and human values.
Dear President of the Republic, you embody those human values  which we share. You struggled a lot in your life: after a long forced exile of fifteen years, you came back to your home country to continue your fight for a free and sovereign Lebanon.
Speaking of being human,
I cannot but think of my aunt, the nun, Mother Yvonne Bassoul, who seeded in me the duty of giving back.
She was the one who inspired my wife Andrea and me to start the Bassoul Dignity Foundation to help thousands of vulnerable people around the world and specifically in the Middle East.
I also remember my friend, the boxer Mohamed Ali Clay, who once told me:
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”
In other words, serving others is the price we have to pay to earn our place on earth.
I can assure you that nothing beats watching the smile of a child, who lost everything, when he received the assistance and the help of our foundation.
If I have been sensitive to the needs of so many people around the world is because I had experienced similar difficulties in my own life.
Dear graduating class of 2019, like me,  I hope that one day, 40 years later, you shall come back to Jamhour, and you would not only speak of your professional accomplishments in your career, but you would tell of your own  efforts in fighting the terrible injustices in the world.
Don’t be afraid to lend a hand to people from other parts of this earth who need your help and your love.
Father Batour, after entrusting you with the most precious thing in my life, my daughter Magalie who is in petite section,
I offer you something much less of importance but of value to you and to this college.
To Jamhour which I hated a lot but I learned  to love so much, I donate one million dollars earned from the fruit of my own labor and sweat.
I hope that this gift that will be added to the endowment fund of Notre Dame de jamhour, shall help, in the coming years, many students and parents in need of financial aid.
In addition, I share your forward thinking vision of building a robotics and AI academy at the college. I put at your disposal my expertise and my relationships in this field. You can count on me to make this pilot project, the first of its kind in Lebanon, a reality for the service of the youth of our country.
Dear graduates, I just shared with you some very personal and private stories of my journey, I hope that these stories will provide you with great hope in your life going forward.
Thank you for your attention
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French Version
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Monsieur le Président de la République, le Général Michel Aoun,
Révérend Père Recteur,
Révérends Pères,
Chers Parents et amis,
Chers élèves de la promo 2019,
J’ai l’honneur d’être avec vous ce soir, pour cette grande célébration, dans cet endroit où tout a commencé pour moi.
De toute ma vie, je n’aurais jamais cru pouvoir être le parrain d’une promotion à Jamhour. Cela tient du miracle, surtout en la présence du Premier Libanais, son Excellence le Président de la République, le Général Michel Aoun !
تحياتي يا فخامة الرئيس وبشكرك على حضورك معنا
Ce Collège, que je n’ai jamais aimé, que j’ai vraiment haï, et qui m’a accueilli pendant 13 ans, m’honore aujourd’hui. Quel paradoxe ! Je n’ai jamais aimé Jamhour parce que j’étais un enfant turbulent, dyslexique, déficient de l’attention, hyperactif, ayant des résultats scolaires médiocres, pour ne pas dire catastrophiques. Venant d’une famille modeste, entouré de camarades studieux et riches, j’ai beaucoup souffert dans ce Collège. Inadapté socialement aux besoins et aux exigences du Collège, j’ai accumulé échecs, renvois et déceptions. Mais malgré ce sombre tableau, il y a dans ce Collège des personnes qui ont cru en moi.
En premier, le Révérend Père Jean Dalmais, qui est avec nous ce soir, qui a voulu que je continue toutes mes études à Jamhour – malgré tout –, m’a accompagné et a été un soutien indéfectible pour ma mère et pour moi. Ma mère a passé toutes ces années à plaider ma cause auprès des préfets et des recteurs, pour me donner et redonner une seconde chance. Maman, de tout cœur, merci !
Par ailleurs, le Révérend Père Madet a dit un jour à mon père, qui était passé le voir pour le remercier : « Sélim ira très loin, tout le monde va parler de votre fils, M. Bassoul. Vous allez voir. » Et, miracle, il n’a pas eu complètement tort.
Imaginez-vous, du dernier de classe à Jamhour, j’ai été major de promotion à l’AUB sur 3 ans et de même à Kellogg Northwestern University à Chicago. À 38 ans, je suis devenu CEO de Middleby, la plus grande compagnie des appareils électroménagers au monde et le leader de la Robotique aux USA. Je dois tout cela au Père Madet.
Je dois vous avouer que certains jésuites ont une intuition exceptionnelle. Ils sont comme des X-ray machines. Ils voient ce que nous ne voyons pas.
Ce que vous ne savez pas, et que Père Dalmais peut confirmer aujourd’hui : en 100 ans dans l’histoire du Collège, j’ai été le seul à Jamhour à avoir échoué au bac ! J’ai brisé le record. La guerre venait de commencer et, n’ayant accès à aucune aide financière et, de surcroît, dépourvu de diplôme officiel, mon destin semblait condamné.
Cependant, cet élève qui a échoué à tous les niveaux a complètement changé la donne. J’ai réussi à transformer l’échec scolaire total en une réussite professionnelle exceptionnelle. En gros, un élève à Jamhour pire que moi, c’était impossible : If I made it, you all can make it. I urge you to think out of the box, be creative, be contrarian, be bold, take risks, fail and stand up, fail again and stand up again.
Chers élèves, ce Collège m’a appris la rigueur, le hard work, le savoir, le know how, l’ambition et surtout le give back. Les Jésuites ne m’ont pas dit ce que je devais penser mais ils m’ont appris à penser.
Ce Collège a forgé en moi le sens de l’amitié, que je garde avec quelques-uns de ma classe depuis plus de 50 ans. Un de ces amis se trouve parmi nous ce soir, c’est Anis Barakat. Ce lien d’amitié est unique au Collège. Ces amitiés sont pour la vie. Je me rappelle que, dans le film The Godfather, Don Corleone dit la chose suivante à son fils Michael :
« You do not choose your family, but you choose your friends. Friendship is as important as family. My son, choose well. »
Et dans ce Collège, vous avez la chance de bien choisir.
Les jeunes, je vous invite à bouger, à voyager, à partir à la découverte de nouveaux horizons. Mais, surtout, n’oubliez jamais vos racines. Mon expérience m’a appris que le Libanais peut quitter le Liban, mais le Liban ne quittera jamais le cœur du Libanais. J’ai voyagé partout dans le monde, de la Chine aux USA… 40 ans plus tard, je n’ai jamais oublié d’où je venais.
Chers parents, nous partageons, ce soir, quelque chose que nous avons en commun. Mon fils Antoine, lui aussi, recevra son diplôme de MBA la semaine prochaine à Chicago. Comme vos enfants, il commence un nouveau chapitre de sa vie.
Le premier conseil que je lui ai donné était d’être surtout patient et persévérant. Les accomplissements, les grandes et les vraies réussites prennent du temps, nécessitent un travail dur, de la volonté et de l’amour. Cher Président de la République, vous incarnez pour nous ces valeurs humaines auxquelles nous tenons. Vous avez enduré beaucoup dans votre vie : après un exil d’une quinzaine d’années, vous êtes revenu au pays pour continuer votre combat au service d’un Liban souverain et libre.
Le second conseil que j’ai donné à mon fils, outre la patience, c’est l’humilité, chers amis. Une vraie réussite ne va pas avec l’arrogance ni avec la prétention. Je m’adresse à vous, comme à mon fils, en vous disant : Gardez vos pieds sur terre pour atteindre les plus hauts sommets. Les grandes âmes sont celles dont l’esprit est resté simple et humain.
Et, parlant d’humain, je pense à ma tante religieuse, Mère Yvonne Bassoul, qui m’a toujours inculqué le sens du give back. C’est elle qui a inspiré ma femme et moi la création de Bassoul Dignity Foundation pour aider des milliers de personnes à travers le monde et spécialement au Moyen-Orient. Je me rappelle, à ce propos, que mon ami Mohamed Ali Clay, le grand boxeur, m’avait un jour confié : « Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth. » Autrement dit, servir les autres est le prix qu’on doit payer pour mériter notre place sur terre.
Je vous assure que rien au monde ne vaut le sourire d’un enfant qui, ayant tout perdu, reçoit le soutien et l’aide de notre association. Si j’ai été sensible aux besoins d’un très grand nombre de personnes de par le monde, c’est parce j’ai vécu quelque chose de similaire dans ma propre vie…
Chers élèves de la promo 2019, j’espère qu’un jour vous reviendrez, 40 ans plus tard, à Jamhour, comme moi, et que vous parlerez non seulement de vos accomplissements professionnels, mais également de ce que vous aurez offert au monde afin de combattre les pires injustices. N’ayez pas peur d’aller à l’autre bout du monde pour aider toute personne qui aurait besoin d’aide et d’amour.
Père Batour, après vous avoir confié mon bien le plus précieux, ma petite Magalie, élève en Petite Section, je voudrais également vous offrir quelque chose qui est de moindre importance mais qui est aussi très utile. À ce Collège que j’ai tant détesté mais qu’au fond j’aime tant, j’offre un million de dollars de ma propre sueur. Ce don, qui s’ajoutera à l’Endowment Fund du Collège, aidera, dans les années à venir, beaucoup d’élèves et de parents qui seraient dans le besoin.
De plus, je partage votre vision avant-gardiste de vouloir fonder une Académie de Robotique et d’Intelligence Artificielle au Collège. Je mets entièrement à votre disposition mon expertise et mes relations dans ce domaine. Vous pourrez continuer à compter sur moi pour concrétiser ce projet pilote, le premier au Liban, au service de la jeunesse de notre pays.
Chers élèves de la Promo 2019, voilà ce que j’ai voulu partager avec vous, quelque chose de très personnel qui, je l’espère, vous aidera à avoir toujours confiance dans la vie.
Merci de votre attention.

Giving a Second Chance to Tamara K.

Tamara K., a Lebanese girl from Tripoli, has been diagnosed with a very rare form of epilepsy and needed an urgent surgery.

Unfortunately, her family financial conditions did not allow her to get that surgery. Tamara’s father is a Chef at a restaurant in Jounieh and her mother is a housewife raising 4 children at home. The family lives in Akkar, one of the most impoverished areas in Lebanon and the Middle East.

The father sold his only car. The mother sold her only jewelry – her wedding ring.

Friends and family pitched in for the $40,000 surgery, but $11,000 was still needed. Time was the essence. Tamara, who is now 12 years old was getting too old for a brain surgery and her epilepsy seizures had become almost constant. Most days, she could not go to school anymore, because she needed to be under constant watch. It was depressing her mentally, affecting the lives of her brothers and sisters, and her father almost lost his job due to frequent tardiness and absenteeism.

The foundation reached out to the Tabbara family and helped with the needed financials to perform the surgery.

The surgery was a tremendous success. Now, Tamara is back to a normal life and attending the school like any child her age, playing and going out with friends.

Selim Bassoul Receives Hero of Conscious Capitalism Award

 

Born in Beirut, Lebanon, Selim A. Bassoul is a conscious capitalist with a global focus. He has successfully lead Middleby Corporation as Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO, cementing the company’s place as a leading producer of food processing and commercial cooking equipment. Bassoul has shown that he can both outperform the Standard & Poor 500 while also providing training and basic cooking equipment to refugees and displaced persons around the world. For those at work, in his community, and for those in need he has said, “I want to be able to, in a small way, change the world. It has always been my purpose.”

Throughout his life, Bassoul has faced numerous challenges, including dyslexia, ADHD, and the danger of civil war while he was attending high school in the 1970s. He survived and, after attending the American University of Beirut, moved immediately to the United States to take up a graduate degree in business, eventually getting hired at Middleby. His background has made him keenly aware of the difficulties faced by others and of the importance of helping others. Raised as a Christian, Bassoul sets aside 10% of his day for prayer so that he can remain focused on his purpose and how he can be a source of good in the world. The rest of his day is spent equally on checking in with customer relations, how his people are doing, and keeping ahead of the curve by observing industry trends and devising advanced products.

When Bassoul first came on board at Middleby he demonstrated the importance of including all stakeholders and in being a conscious leader. He sold his own house to buy into Middleby stock when general investors would not. He embraced the practice of hiring employees’ families and friends to build a stronger community and reduce turnover to 2%. Additionally, Bassoul eliminated excess hierarchy and decentralized the chain of command. His emphasis on team enthusiasm, hiring the right people and ensuring that his workers want to stay have resulted in one of the best corporate cultures even as Middleby quadrupled in sales and acquisitioned a dozen new companies under its brand. Bassoul has said, “I am the custodian of the culture and the environment. I can drive it to be ugly, or to be good. So the vision… [is] where the employee will drive home with greater self-esteem, feeling that they have learned a lot and played a significant role in the [company’s] success.”

Under Bassoul, Middleby also led the way in innovation by creating energy-saving equipment in 2000 when few other companies were thinking about the environment or their customers’ electric bills. These efforts culminated in Middleby achieving recognition for offering the most Energy Star® rated commercial kitchen appliances out of all their competitors, saving their customers several billion gallons of water annually. Other advances have also include greener designs for industrial kitchens, including the elimination of traditional ventilation hoods and be reduction of substances that harm the ozone layer.

In addition to his work at Middleby, Bassoul runs the Bassoul Dignity Foundation that provides life skills and vocational training to those struggling to find work, single mothers, and former inmates with minor offenses. During the Lebanese civil war, Bessoul saw his aunt, who was a nun, help build orphanages and take in anyone regardless of their beliefs or who they were. As he explained in an interview, “My job is to give people a stake in society so they can co-exist in harmony in a working environment… Those people don’t want money from you. They want to find a job. I’ve always been trying to help as much as I can. This is not about having a big heart. This is an obligation. It’s what leaders do.”

Most recently, Bassoul’s company worked together with Entrepreneurs Without Borders to invent and begin distribution of a solar-powered, affordable, and portable stove for refugees and the impoverished around the world. That stove also has the ability to purify water and charge a cell phone.

For these reasons, Selim Bassoul earned the Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2015 for his philanthropic contributions.

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