Tom Fletcher

Tom Fletcher

Former British Ambassador to Lebanon

Part of UK in Lebanon

3rd June 2013 Beirut, Lebanon

Courage, Challenges and The Post Civil War Generation

I was asked to speak at a graduation ceremony on Friday. It was the end of a tiring and typically eclectic week, including a huge celebration of HM Queen’s birthday (held early, ironically, to avoid Lebanese elections), the launch of the Jaguar F-Type, postponement of elections, the usual round of mountain top meetings with leaders, and rising tension as a result of contagion from (and now to) Syria. But it was great to draw energy and hope from the camaraderie and talent of the graduates.

More than the squabbles in parliament, they represent Lebanon’s future. They divided by discipline, not sect.

By the time it was my turn, I was already overwhelmed by the way in which the students had drawn on the words of great Brits, from Nelson to Churchill, to define courage.

I shared a book of advice that I have collected for my son from various leaders and inspirations. There are some real nuggets in there, from Pele to Beckham, the Dalai Lama to Gorbachev.

George W Bush wrote:

“Charlie, find comfort in faith, family and friends, and don’t sacrifice your soul for approval”.

Bill Clinton wrote:

“Charlie, learn as much as you can. Get to know different types of people. Enjoy every day. Be generous in giving”.

And Barack Obama wrote:

“Dream big dreams Charlie, and then work for them”.

Running through that advice, and through my experience of courageous individuals, are purpose, authenticity and determination.

Lebanon has no shortage of such examples. The entrepreneurs who keep bouncing back. Soldiers trying to keep the men of violence apart in Tripoli.

Those like May Chidiac who campaign for freedoms despite assassination attempts against them. Those like Maxime Chaya, who – having conquered every peak and Pole – sets out this week to row across the Indian Ocean. Those like Charbel, a young Syrian refugee I met on a visit with Save the Children, now raising his family alone.

As I look at the challenges facing Lebanon today, there seems to be no more important moment for the silent majority to show their courage. To have the courage to coexist, while some seek to divide them. To have the courage to believe in a positive vision of Lebanon’s future, while some despair. To have the courage to stick around and build that future for Lebanon, while others leave – see Nemr Abou Nassar’s passionate YouTube call to arms on this theme.

That would be purpose, authenticity and determination.

The generation leaving university now, the first post civil war in Lebanon, face more choices than any before. I hope that they have the courage of Churchill, of Cheya, of Chidiac, of Charbel. And hopefully, providing that he reads the book rather than sells it, of Charlie.

6 comments on “Courage, Challenges and The Post Civil War Generation

  1. Dear Tom,
    I do beg your pardon but I don ´t want to forget to congratulate Abir Ward for his lines.
    BW , Ingo-Steven

  2. Dear Tom,
    a great story to read . I do esp. like your lines in re. of this well- described meeting : ” But it was great to draw energy and HOPE…”. I do strongly believe, that you ´ve also got the current LEBANSE/SYRIAN crisis in mind. (Contagion from (and now to) Syria. It ´s also very interesting to me to compare the words of such different former US-Presidents like George W. Bush, Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. I ´m only missing at least one quote by a leading female politican, e.g. Hilary Clinton, Margaret Thatcher or Michelle Obama. To conclude : It would be only interesting to know what quotes/sayings “from great Brits from Nelson ´till Churchill ” you ´ve mentioned in front of your audience. Esp. for your right, that these new post civil-war generation of The Lebanon will do have more choice than any other before. This should be a big chance and a challenge – but could also cause a little danger or risk. Old German poet Goethe once wrote (Faust, #1) : “Be careful with your words and dreams – they might come true”…(Sei vorsichtig mit Wünschen und Gedanken, sie könnten in Erfüllung gehn). So, who ever “Charlie” was or is I do also hope , that he READS books instead of selling them or going online 24 hrs. per day.
    Best wishes and success, Hawyl faur, bora te and liebste Grüßle aus Stutengarten/Caerdydd

    1. Many thanks indeed. I’ll find another opportunity to share some of the contributions from inspirational women leaders. Have a look on YouTube for a discussion we had with some of the women ambassadors in Lebanon, at the May Chidiac Foundation. Best wishes, Tom

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About Tom Fletcher

Tom Fletcher was appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Lebanese Republic in August 2011. Tom was born in Kent, and studied at Harvey Grammar School (Folkestone) and Oxford University (Hertford…

Tom Fletcher was appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Lebanese Republic in August 2011.

Tom was born in Kent, and studied at Harvey Grammar School (Folkestone) and Oxford University (Hertford College), graduating with a First class degree in Modern History. He has an MA in Modern History, and is a Senior Associate Member of St Anthony’s College for International Studies, Oxford.

He is married to Louise Fletcher and they have two sons, Charles (born 2006) and Theodor (born 2011). Tom enjoys political history, cricket (Strollers CC), and mountains, and is the co-founder of 2020 (a progressive think tank).

Tom was awarded the Companion of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the 2011 New Year’s Honours, for services to the Prime Minister.