Dr Kao Kim Hourn
At the Ohio University Commencement Exercise
(For Receiving the Honorary Doctor of Public Service)
Athens, Ohio, United States of America
9 June 2007
President Roderick McDavis,
Distinguished Members of the Governing Board of Ohio University,
Fellow Honorary Doctoral Degree Recipients,
Esteemed Faculty Members,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Today, it is indeed a great honor and pleasure for me to be here at the 2006 Commencement Exercise of Ohio University
(OU) with all of you.
2. As many of you may be aware, Cambodia had a troubled history in the latter half of the 21st century. Due to the war,
conflict and murderous revolution in Cambodia, my family and I had the opportunity to come to the United States and
experienced the benefits of your educational system. Ohio University is one of my almae matres, and it was at this university
that I had a wonderful learning experience. I graduated in 1991 with two Masters degrees, in political science and in international affairs
(Southeast Asian Studies) - and I have fond memories of my time here.
3. I used to stay at Ryder Hall for my first year at OU, before moving out in my second and final year at the university.
I was very fortunate to receive a scholarship for my first year and a national education scholarship for the second year,
which allowed me to complete my studies in no time.
4. It was during my second year at OU that I was elected president of the Southeast Asia Studies Association, where
I had the opportunity to interact and engage with all students not only from Southeast Asia but also from many other Asian countries.
I would like to share with you the fact that I had a good time at OU by studying at the Alden Library, where I spent most of my time
during my two years here. I would also like to say that OU had some of the best professors that I ever had during my studies in America,
and I had learnt so much in such a short time. For me, time went by so fast and almost without a trace. In all aspects of my life at
the university, OU truly inspired me to the best person that I could be and to enjoy the time of my life. The green environment and
the Hocking Valley setting had made OU so attractive, so friendly and so welcoming.
5. After Ohio, I went on to Hawaii to do my PhD in political science, before returning to Cambodia, in January 2003. Back in Cambodia,
I have sought to contribute to our unfortunate nation's recovery and rebuilding from the era of genocide under the Pol Pot regime,
which sought amongst other things to eliminate the vast majority of Cambodia's remaining intelligentsia. My efforts were to work
for a policy-oriented think tank, to advise the government on foreign policy, and found the University of Cambodia, which opened
its doors just four short years ago, and which has a curriculum designed on the model of the American academic system which had
so benefited me. To me, the U.S. universities are one of the America’s greatest assets and a wonderful resource to the world.
6. My endeavors over the past four years have been much propelled by two factors. On a time-line, the first of these was
the generosity of several benefactors, especially Dr Haruhisa Handa, Chancellor of The University of Cambodia, Leader of World Mate,
and President of the International Foundation for Arts and Culture: they assisted not only to get the university going, but also have
provided funds so that, two years from now, we will be moving into a brand new campus which will allow us to vastly increase
our enrolment and so reach out to many more students as part of our mission to help Cambodia to rise from the ashes of its past
and catch up with the rest of the globalizing world through human resource development.
7. Somewhat later in the time-line of The University of Cambodia's brief history, once we had started to find our financial feet,
another factor is becoming of increasing importance: the need to better realize our intellectual goals. Cambodia's unenviable past
means that we are still dependent on outside help: there is a shortfall not only in monetary resources but in educated local talent.
Thus, I sought to establish contacts with overseas universities, with the aim of signing meaningful memoranda of understanding of
mutual benefit to each party.
8. I can honestly say that the MOU which we signed with Ohio University has been by far the most successful. It has been a meaningful
document which has benefited both your institution and ours. Although it was only signed about a year ago, we have already had fruitful
exchanges of views and plans. The most tangible of these has been the setting up of a Leadership and Career Development Centre at
The University of Cambodia - another first for our country - and, in collaboration with your appropriately named Global Leadership Center,
the organizing of a highly successful workshop on “International Leadership Skills for the 21st Century.” With such a most promising start,
I sincerely hope that The University of Cambodia and Ohio University will together share a bright future, especially in contributing to quality
human resource development in Cambodia and Southeast Asia as a whole.
9. Before concluding, I wish to sincerely thank President Roderick McDavis, Dr. Alan Geiger, Professor Josep Rota, Dr. Greg Emery and others for all the support and cooperation that you have extended to The University of Cambodia and to me personally.
10. In accepting an Honorary Doctor of Public Service at this year’s Commencement Exercise of Ohio University, I wish to express my sincere appreciation to Dr. Haruhisa Handa for all his generous support and assistance to The University of Cambodia and to me personally, my professors, my mentors, friends, and family members, all of whom had contributed so much to my achievements and successes.
11. Finally, I wish to extend my warmest congratulations and best wishes to each member of the graduating class of Ohio University in 2007.
Thank you very much.