"To add one more smile in the world, to remove one more tear," Michael Kouly said. There will be plenty of both before the day is finished. But notwithstanding the sadness of parting, this is a day replete with optimism, because now we know we have a future together.
This is a photo of MELA members one thousand years from now. A little worse for wear, perhaps. But part of us is still here by the Dead Sea -- aged, eroded, encrusted with salt, yet still recognizably the same people who met and learned and laughed together at MELA. Surely that is Hazem in front? Can't you spot Haya chatting with Hamoud? And there's Sarah, Bill, Saif, Andrew, Ramzi, Johnny, Zeina, Nancy, Dima, John, Firas, Mohammad, Radwa -- oh wonderful friends, they are all here! All the beloved people together in this place, today and forever. Can you see them? Close your eyes and look, and you can see them -- as they were, and are, and always will be. Thus we remember, and are remembered.
* * * * *
"Shaping the Future - The Power of MELA." Jim opens the afternoon session with a vision of the organization weaving together strands across the Middle East, and closely knit with its older sister, the Central Eurasia Leadership Academy (CELA) and the Society of International Business Fellows (SIBF).
The facilitators stand and are recognized for the profound contributions they made to the success of the program.
An inner glow suffuses Faculty Director Bill Starnes, fuelled by pride at a job well done, and animated by the prospect of getting more than 4 hours of sleep a night once MELA is over.
Hamoud, Shamma, Mohammad, Hania: Different people react in different ways...
Time for an invigorating beverage, before we move into the final phase of our agenda.
Adey receives his certificate from Michael.
Shamma is congratulated by Meisa.
The talented Mr. Mohamad prepares for an appearance on "Arab Idol."
Laughter and emotion from Hania.
Omar demonstrates again his star power.
Yasser is also an accomplished microphone performer. Mohamad clearly has some stiff competition for "Arab Idol."
Sarah was born to be on the stage.
Lama's smile says it all!
The MELA light
Saif and Mohammad share the secret MELA handshake.
An alternative version of the secret handshake, Omani style.
Some people opted for a good old-fashioned hug.
Not the beginning of the end -- merely the end of the beginning!