Hello I’m Samia. That’s also my instagram username if you want to follow me. Just one phrase, no spaces, “helloimsamia”.
I know a lot of professors, parents, and deans in the audience are cringing at my shameless self-promotion. Because, to you, that may be what my generation is known for. And you’re probably worried for the future because we’re known for the selfies, the snapchats, all the social media posts. But to me we’re so much more.
In the past four years, if there’s anything I’ve learned about us, the CLASS OF 2017, it’s that we are socially aware and compassionate individuals.
And it is here at Rutgers, through all of your actions, that I’ve gotten a glimpse of what “revolutionary” can look like.
I’ve seen us CREATE knowledge from experiments that WE designed in our labs. I’ve seen us gain the freshmen “fifteen.” And you might be wondering “how is that revolutionary?” Well, it’s because I think it’s a solid fifteen pounds of knowledge that we gained.
And I’ve seen us raise GPAs like they were our children. Happy Mother’s Day again!
And time and time again I’ve seen us prove that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell.
But I’ve also seen us prove that solidarity is a verb, not a noun. I’ve seen an incredible amount of character development in all of my friends and I’m looking forward to seeing what else we will accomplish. Because there is a lot we still have to accomplish.
Because, as I speak, glaciers are melting, animals are losing their habitats, bacteria are becoming more and more resistant to antibiotics, incarceration rates are rising, lives are being lost because of institutionalized oppression, humans are being trafficked, countries are undergoing ethnic cleansings, and WE are turning the other cheek.
These are ALL issues that affect each and every one of us.
We can’t let the focus we have on our individual ambitions make us forget to focus on our brothers and sisters around the world and the state of humanity, as a whole. We need to let them know that the youth are coming together to save the world. But before we can change the world, we must first realize we are part of it. We have a lot of work to do. Our current situation–sitting here all dolled up in our graduation gowns and caps with diplomas soon to be “in hand”–is not at all our final destination.
We have a lot more to learn. And I’m not just talking about knowing all that super important stuff we learn in the classroom or lab, but of keeping an open mind and actually watching the news and reading reliable articles. We can’t depend on the system to solve the problem. We’re the solution; we’re the future. If we don’t change ourselves or enlighten our neighbors individually, the state of humanity won’t change either.
We have dreams that we’re chasing right now. For some of us, getting a diploma is that dream. Some are chasing higher education. Some lucky ones already have a job lined up and a solid paycheck to look forward to. But what we all need to understand is that no matter where we are, we should never be complacent. We should always reach for progress. Always strive for more. Always be curious about how we can be better. Embrace the struggle, for there is no progress without struggle.
As it says on my graduation cap, “The dream is free but the hustle is sold separately.” A lot of my friends here are probably laughing because that quote got us through every late night session at the Cook Campus Center or Mabel Smith Library where we just wanted to quit and wing our exams or whatever. It’s also “graffitied” into some of the tables at the library; um I don’t know who did that or how that got there but it’s there.
Despite the existential crises, we’ve persevered; and we’re here today. There’s a line in the Quran that got me through some tough times: “Verily, with hardship comes ease.”
As a Muslim daughter of incredibly motivated immigrants, sitting right there, I have faced adversity and racism; I have felt the walls of the box into which I have been stereotyped. At times I’ve felt like I was too eastern for the West, too western for the East. Like the Atlantic Ocean.
But at Rutgers, I’ve felt at home…because my being “different” is not unique. Because all of us are different, in so many ways. Here, we don’t fear each other’s differences; we’re curious about them. Rutgers has sculpted us into scholars. And as intellectuals, we’re motivated by our curiosity. That’s why we woke up every morning to go to our 9:15 classes. I mean that…and well, attendance was worth like 10% of our final grade.
As we continue on our individual journeys, I want to urge us all to stay curious. I hope our passion and thirst for knowledge remain unquenchable throughout our lives and that we never stop seeking and demanding THE TRUTH. Challenge racism, misogyny, hatred, and corruption. We are all personally responsible for becoming more ethical than the society we inherited.
You know there’s a saying related to this, and because this is SEBS, we have a bunch of ecology and marine science majors in the audience, so this one’s for you: “Be like a dolphin or a sea turtle, they have it all figured out. Like zero carbon footprint, no genocidal history, ‘just swimmin’.”
We’ve just had finals so you probably feel like your brain is very fragile and you know so many facts like the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. So take a break, treat yourself. But know that there’s a lot you still have to learn. Your curiosity for the unknown shouldn’t end here with this diploma.
These past four years, I’ve seen a glimpse of how revolutionary we can be. But as we leave here today, let’s work to create a permanent reality that’s revolutionary.
Thank you. It’s been a privilege to be your Class Representative!
Editor’s Note: Samia is a Biological Sciences major and an Endocrine Physiology and Health Science minor. She has taken advantage of the research and teaching opportunities available to SEBS undergraduates, conducting important stem cell research through the Department of Biomedical Engineering and serving as a learning assistant for the courses, “Functional Human Anatomy” and “Ethics in Science.” Influenced by her SEBS experiences, she has evolved into a strong proponent of creating a sustainable future and living a healthy and inclusive lifestyle. A self-described bird enthusiast, Samia considers “SEBS green” her favorite color. Her plans include applying to medical schools in June.