The prime minister of Jordan returned to his alma mater Friday to tell the University of Tennessee’s 3,100 newest graduates that they are experiencing the most rapid transformation in history.
Ali Hussein Abu Ragheb, the prime minister and minister of defense for the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, is a 1967 graduate of UT’s College of Engineering.
“You are living the future that we were once promised, . . . where knowledge has introduced new patterns in education, commerce, communications and services,” Abu Ragheb said. “In an unprecedented manner that defies conventional wisdom, your future has become in many ways immediate.”
He contrasted the global information revolution experienced by the new graduates to his own student days at UT.
“Back in 1967, not many people around here really knew where Jordan was, and we had to wait for days to make a phone call to our families back home,” he said. “You can now connect continents in splits of seconds and exchange data and knowledge across oceans.
“Your orientation period to the real world will therefore be shorter, yet must be more effective, and will enable you to make decisions and to choose careers more readily than ever.”
Abu Ragheb warned students that they would face a lack of precedents and the complications of global interdependence, but he said they could depend on values of integrity, honesty and friendship learned as students at UT.
“As prime minister, I shoulder a responsibility bestowed on me by king and country to safeguard the well-being and interest of almost 5 million Jordanians,” he said. “As such, I have come to appreciate the lessons learned at this place more profoundly than ever.”
About 3,103 students were scheduled to receive diplomas, including 2,108 undergraduates, 802 graduate students, 136 law students and 57 graduates in veterinary medicine. Founded in 1794, UT boasts more than 250,000 graduates.
This commencement was Abu Ragheb’s third at UT. In addition to his own graduation, his son, Hassan, graduated in 1995. Eight members of his family have degrees from UT.
The Jordanian ambassador to the United States, Marwan Muasher, accompanied him to Knoxville.
Abu Ragheb, whose degree is in civil engineering, was elected to the Jordanian Parliament in 1993. He has served as minister of industry and trade, minister of energy and mineral resources, and chairman of the parliamentary finance committee.
After leaving UT, he was a project manager for the ministry of municipal and rural affairs and a partner and managing director of the National Engineering and Contracting Co. in Amman. He has served as president of the Jordan Contractors Association and has served on other private and public boards and councils.
Abu Ragheb has received the Grand Cordon of the Order of Al-Kawkab Al-Urduni and the Grand Cordon of the Order of Al-Nahda and is Knight of the Grand Cross in Italy.