The Beirut Baptist School choir performed at the event in their own way to raise their voices for social and academic inclusion. In their speeches, Mrs. Roukoz, Mr. Yarak, and Dr. Nabil Costa all advocated for the rights of our special guests and called for inclusion.
Dr. Nabil Costa:
God gave us our second son fifteen years ago, and like most parents, after two years, we found out that our journey with our son would be difficult. This was not something that we had planned for. It was not our decision to enter the world of special needs and encounter its difficulties. The first reaction was typically negative, but God had another purpose for us. We knew later that God does not make mistakes, and that God loves children with special needs even more than we love them. I am standing in front of you, parents, as a father fully aware that we are facing challenges but our hearts are radiating hope especially tonight.
Our children have planted this light in our hearts. This night is called Night to Shine and I would like to thank Tim Tebow for his wonderful vision. Tonight, we will see our children shine with a great light because their light has been dimmed in our country. Tonight we will be able to say about our children: all that shines is gold.
This is a prom night. A prom night is where we crown and celebrate teenagers who made it through the first stage of their lives to move on to a clearer level in life. The concept behind tonight’s prom night is different. These individuals we are crowning do not have a clear future; instead, it is a hard one. This is why it is our duty to support them as a civil society, NGOs, governmental ministries, and decision makers.
Mrs. Claudine Aoun Roukoz:
When life closes its doors in front of someone, he/she should see it through your eyes, your smile, your enthusiasm, your purity. This purity accompanies our childhood. The older we grow, the less it remains. You did not lose a bit of it. It all stayed with you. Perhaps this is the secret behind the beauty that radiates from your eyes. Life chooses on your behalf that you will be different. You walked through this difficult journey with your parents. You fight daily to tell people that being different does not mean being neglected, being different does not rule out your effectiveness. You have the right to be present and effective in your community.
No one knows the gifts that God gave you, and the paths He wants to open through you. Louis Braille lost his eyesight at a young age, due to an accident. Although he and his parents suffered, that suffering was a pathway of opportunity for every person with an eyesight impairment to be able to read and write. Today, you are showing us your positive capabilities, in which many people believed and encouraged you to develop whether it was your parents, specialized schools, the people accompanying you, or all of us. You are transmitting a message to all the world that you are capable of giving so much. Your right is to be a part of your community, and not be marginalized. For this reason, we are seeking, based on the recommendations of President Michael Aoun and the first lady Nadia Aoun, to make the international day for individuals with disabilities, on Dec 3, the National Day for Inclusion because our purpose is to focus on inclusion and not on disabilities. Inclusion portrays a real place in the community. It means opportunities for education, work, independence, equality in rights, and firstly, it means teaching our society to accept differences and respecting individuals with differences and their rights.
Mr. Fadi Yarak:
Guaranteeing equitable education for all and enforcing educational opportunities for all, the fourth SDG is impossible to be implemented without the belief in inclusion.
The concept of inclusion has developed over the years. Based on the belief of the MEHE in the importance of inclusion, and because humanitarian education is by nature inclusive, and based on our belief in the right of education for all and ensuring equal opportunities for education, and seeking to prepare learners to become independent and productive through their effective participation in the educational, social, and economic life, and due to our belief that the educational system should ensure educational opportunities to all its members, the MEHE has launched the project for inclusive public schools through building the capacities of public schools to provide high quality education for all learners. This model is being piloted in 30 public schools equally distributed throughout Lebanese regions. We are here today to crown individuals with special needs. This is a very important step. Thank you for the organizers.
This is a call to make the heart of every child, in its uniqueness, a crown on all our heads.