Egyptian President Hosny Mubarak said GW and Egypt share a commitment to a brighter future at a convocation in his honor June 29 at Lisner Auditorium, coinciding with an orientation session for GW freshmen.
“For many years, your institution has been dedicated to the shaping of minds, the building of character through knowledge, through study and the pursuit of truth. In this you have contributed to building a better world,” Mubarak said as he accepted a honorary doctorate of laws. “In the Middle East we also seek a future of prosperity. Over the years, Egypt has tried to build sustainable peace; for over 20 years, it has shown the way.”
To introduce Mubarak, GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg read from the citation that accompanied the award, praising his work to further harmony in his country’s region.
“In the grand sweep of the 20th century, only a very few men have ever been given the chance to shape the course of events; fewer still are known as peace-makers,” Trachtenberg said. “You, Mohamed Hosny Mubarak, addressed destiny as one of the preeminent figures in the contemporary story of the Arab Republic of Egypt, a role that history gave you and that you filled with compassion, courage and grace.
“You have served as a bridge between the Arabs and Israel, between Islam and the West, and between the developing world and the developed world,” Trachtenberg said.
Mubarak has been president of Egypt since 1981, when he succeeded the late Anwar El-Sadat. Trachtenberg cited Mubarak’s support of free-market reforms in the 1990s and his work to build upon the peace brokered with Israel at Camp David as reasons for the award. Mubarak met with new Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in the Middle East recently to discuss Barak’s plans for peace in the region.
Despite GW’s praise for Mubarak, who was in town for meetings with President Clinton, some disagreed with the University’s decision to confer an honorary degree upon him. Inside and outside of Lisner Auditorium, Egyptian Christians handed out copies of their advertisements published in The Washington Times, decrying his human rights record.
Also, an editorial in The Washington Post June 28 said Mubarak’s “economic liberalization has gone hand in hand with increased control of the state over political, social and cultural affairs” and that “the state has curtailed free speech.”
Mubarak received an honorary degree in front of an audience of Egyptian-Americans, Egyptian nationals and diplomats. He also spoke to incoming GW freshmen and their families, who were on campus for the summer’s fourth Colonial Inauguration orientation program.
Trachtenberg noted what a special opportunity these freshmen received when they accepted admission to GW.
“Other colleges offer lectures from the director of admissions (at orientation),” Trachtenberg said. “The George Washington University offers a lecture from the President of Egypt.”