One of the greatest pleasures of my work as the American ambassador to Saudi Arabia is to celebrate the many successes of the US-Saudi relationship. This month, I am particularly thrilled to congratulate the approximately 8,000 Saudi King Abdullah Scholarship Program (KASP) students who will graduate from US colleges and universities this year.
More than 70,000 young Saudis and their families have chosen to study in the United States. Their presence on our campuses has greatly increased mutual understanding and respect between our two countries.
They have received a world-class education. As they now come home they will have the opportunity to shape the future development of the Kingdom and the future of the Saudi-American friendship.
Graduation is a time to celebrate achievement and look to the future. For Saudi students completing their studies this year, in the US, in the Kingdom, or elsewhere, their future is full of opportunity. They are the entrepreneurs who will turn ideas into jobs. They are the professors and the teachers who will educate the next generation of Saudi citizens.
They are the scientists and lawyers who will serve in government or the private sector fulfilling the needs of their fellow citizens. This is their time to forge ahead and make their most ambitious dreams a reality.
These young people are not alone in this journey. It is the responsibility of my generation to serve as mentors and partner with them to share our knowledge and experiences.
Saudi leaders have taken a number of important steps to move the Kingdom forward. In my time here, the number of universities and institutions of higher education in the Kingdom has nearly tripled, women now serve as members of the Shoura Council, and rapid development is taking place throughout the country.
Saudi Arabia’s young graduates are prepared to continue on this path forward, realizing their individual ambitions while serving their country.
As Americans, we believe that individuals have the power to change their world. This fundamental optimism has guided us since the founding of our country: No challenge is too great, no mission is too hard. Last year, I had the privilege of speaking at the graduation ceremony at Effat University in Jeddah and I saw that same spirit. I was captivated by the hope, optimism and enthusiasm I saw in those graduates. It is this spirit that I believe will guide this year’s graduates as they return home and make their mark on the future of Saudi Arabia.
On behalf of President Obama, and the American people, I offer my sincerest congratulations to all Saudi graduates and their families and wish them every success in their future endeavors.
— James B. Smith is the US ambassador to Saudi Arabia.