We were honored to have a very inspiring talk with AUC’s President, Francis J. Ricciardone, while he was attending RiseUp Summit ’19. He told us how to face challenges as well as how he faces his own challenges. Ricciardone also expressed his thoughts about the protest that happened recently at the AUC campus.
Q: There are a lot of challenges for someone who works in the Middle East and isn’t specifically Middle Eastern themselves, especially in such an ancient institution of education. What are some of the challenges that you have faced?
“First of all, I love challenges.I came here because I love them and a part of what I am saying here is that if you’re an entrepreneur, you will love challenges because they release creativity. I always say problems are a disguise for opportunities. If you want to find opportunities, look for problems ”. He also added in regards to how to deal with such challenges, “If you have that positive attitude or optimism, to you problems are just opportunities waiting to be explored, then you live your life in a positive way”.
Q: Can you tell more about the obstacles that you have faced in your life?
“I used to be a Foreign Services officer. I had to learn new languages and new cultures. I spent my life going to new places, and I had to learn new thing about people who think in a different way, eat different foods, believe in different things, and I loved that. I learned from that. I became a diplomat because I wanted to go to different places and learn different problems, how people face different conflicts, how people compete economically, and how to solve all that. I came here because I wanted to try something new before getting old. I was in Washington a few years ago and this popped up. It was a dream for me. I was not looking for it and they knew I loved Egypt because I have been here before as a tourist and then as a diplomat and a US ambassador in 2005 and 2008, respectively.”
Q: For us, learning English is a basic skill, but for a foreigner, it takes time. And, you took the time and the effort to learn the Arabic language. It is rather inspiring.
“Whenever you learn a language, you’re not just a living dictionary and you’re not just translating. You are thinking in the other language. Whenever I talk Arabic, I think in Arabic, not in English. When I speak Turkish, I think in Turkish. Turkish is expressed in a completely different way and it works differently, too. ”
Q: What do you think about the protest regarding the Palestinian situation that happened at the AUC campus? Are they doing the right thing and are their voices being heard?
“We knew that there will be a protest because I heard of some students saying that and it’s okay. However, they shouldn’t be a disturbance. If they wanted to leave, they should have left without depriving others from benefiting. Some left, but many others stayed and the speaker felt like the ice was built. Protesters were angry about Palestine but the speaker wasn’t a Zionist. He was an American critic of American policy and criticized Israel; However, the students did not know that. If they had read his recent articles, they would have known that he is a thoughtful critic of Israel.It’s okay to be angry, but get over your anger, get over your emotional reaction, and control it to be able to use it to learn from people who have another point of view. Anger and hate are powerful forces and are anti-civilsation. If you want to defeat them, overcome them and understand the angry people.
Q: Can you give a piece of advice for the youth?
“Just be curious. Try things. D on’t be afraid of foreign cultures, different regions, and different food. I got sick a lot, but then I learned to love that food. So as you are beginning your journey, be open to anything that comes your way. There will be disappointments, but it’s all for a reason, no matter what happens. ”
Last but not least, we would like to thank Francis J. Ricciardone for taking the time to have such a fruitful talk with us.