Remarks at the Degree Show by Consul General Zachary Harkenrider

Dr. Uzma Qureshi, Vice Chancellor Lahore College for Women University;
Professor Ismat Hashmi, Principal Government College for Women, Gulberg;
Dr. Rukhsanna Nadeem Bhutta, Principal Post-Graduate College for Women, Samanabad
Heads of Fine Arts departments
Distinguished Guests,

Assalamu Alaikum.

It is an honor to join you today to celebrate the artistic achievements of these 40 bright young women.  I had the opportunity to meet and speak with many of the students presenting their theses at this degree show, and I must say that am impressed by their work.

We are here to mark an important milestone in the lives of these students hailing from three of Lahore’s prestigious women’s institutions.  Today’s thesis presentations represent not just the culmination of four years of study toward a Bachelor of Arts degree, but the fruit of many years of hard work starting from their first day of primary school.

Through a number of Public Affairs’ and USAID-funded programs, the U.S. government supports all levels of education in Pakistan.  We fund programs such as today’s degree show because we recognize that all children need a solid start from grade one, and that they hope to continue their education at strong institutions of higher education.

In fact, during Prime Minister Sharif’s recent trip to Washington, he and President Obama emphasized the value of investing in higher and basic education.  Building on our important cooperation in basic education to date, our two leaders welcomed the launch of the Let Girls Learn Initiative in Pakistan, a global effort led by the United States, which has committed $70 million in U.S. government funding to provide 200,000 Pakistani girls access to education and the tools they need to succeed in life.

In March 2015, President and First Lady Obama announced this expanded effort to help adolescent girls worldwide attend school and we are excited to now bring this initiative to Pakistan.

We have supported nineteen University Partnerships between U.S. and Pakistani institutions, helping universities across Pakistan to improve curricula and develop their faculties.  Five of these three-year, $1 million projects are located right here in Punjab—including one between Lahore College for Women University and George Washington University.  With our partners at the U.S. Educational Foundation in Pakistan, we facilitate the highest-funded Fulbright scholarship program in the world—sending hundreds of Pakistanis to the United States every year in pursuit of masters and doctoral degrees.

For some of you, this may conclude your formal education.  But for those who aspire to an advanced degree in fine arts or other academic fields, I encourage you to reach out to our partners at the U.S. Educational Foundation in Pakistan to explore the possibilities of pursuing a graduate degree in the United States.

We support all of these programs because we know that empowering women and ensuring their access to quality education has long-term, transformational benefits for their future, for their families and communities, and for Pakistan’s economic prosperity overall.  I want to thank everyone here today for your dedication to women’s education in Pakistan.  I once again congratulate all of the students for marking today’s achievement.  All the best to you as you pursue your future endeavors.

Thank you for your attention.

Khuda Hafez