Student Speaker – Leila Warraich
Leila Khalid Warraich, candidate for the master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling, delivered the following remarks at the School of Education’s graduation ceremony on May 23, 2018.
Distinguished guests, faculty, staff, families and graduates, welcome!
My fellow candidates, it is my privilege to be here with you today on this incredible momentous occasion as we celebrate the culmination of our hard work and passions.
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy spoke at Rice University about the Apollo program. In perhaps one of the most memorable moments he said, “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
That statement led me to reflect on our lives and our journeys to this moment today.
My mother was born and raised in a village in Pakistan. My grandfather was a basic civil servant who made just enough to get by day to day. Often my mother had to walk miles to school, through fields, and in varying weather, because transportation was hard to come by. But she did it because her education mattered to her. She knew the opportunities it would provide and the doors it would open. And later she became the first woman in her village to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. She did it not because it was easy, but because it was hard.
My parents’ values instilled in me the desire to learn and serve. All I knew growing up was that I wanted to help others. I had a special interest in counseling because I came from communities where there is stigma associated with mental health and treatment. I was drawn to the idea that as a Muslim and a South Asian perhaps others in my community would feel it was easier to talk about their struggles if they saw me, someone who was like them, as their therapist.
Each day as teachers, as educators, as public safety officials and as counselors we work with our students and our clients trying to cultivate their minds and help facilitate their learning. Each day we encounter difficulties and challenges. Sometimes we have to work with individuals and sometimes we have to work against systems.
Today we are graduating from one of the best institutions in the world. It took many late nights and hard work to get us to where we are. We sacrificed much to walk across this stage today. Because we were up to the challenge. Because we had the desire to make a difference. To become the next generation of responsible and thoughtful educators. To advocate and help students and clients on their journeys. Because we know what education can do for our students. But also what it can do for the world.
As you all move into the next chapters of your life, remember all of your struggles. They defined you, and they made you into who you are. There is no limit to what you can achieve. With this privilege we gain here today, we have an immense responsibility, through our chosen professions, to serve our communities and to our future; our children.
Remember, we do these things not because they are easy but because they are hard.
Congratulations again to my fellow graduates and to your families. May Peace be with you.