Not goodbye; rather 'see you later'

Not goodbye; rather 'see you later'

My ears went deaf as I walked up to the podium. I stood there for a moment, which felt like an eternity. I wanted to take in this amazing experience and exude every ounce of it in my words. I looked into the sea made up of 380 of my peers, along with faculty and honorable guests. I knew that everything I've done in the last four months had prepared me for the moment--prepared me to be the student speaker at the fall 2013 Commencement ceremony. My legs began to quiver but my adrenaline kicked in as I opened with:

 

"From an early age, many of us are taught that there is a right way and a wrong way to do things. We become afraid of making mistakes, and of not getting it ‘right.’ But this paralyzes us and we become afraid of taking risks. But I’m here to tell you, that’s an illusion. I am the youngest of five children, but the first to go to college. Never did I imagine I would be standing here in front of you all, in my nation’s capital. I took a risk going to college; I had no one to look to for guidance or reassurance that I was on the right track, so I made my own path. Much like you all who traveled from as far as Mexico, Gibraltar, India, Russia, China, Canada, Korea, Puerto Rico, Columbia, Brazil and all over the U.S. to be at the Washington Center -- you too took a risk."

 

My heart beat slowed and my nerves began to disintegrate as I eased in at the podium. I felt this undeniable connection with everyone in the room. I remembered how much I love this feeling of being in front of an audience. This is where I love to be. I love speaking in front of people, motivating them, sharing a piece of myself. I continued...

 

..."I came to Washington D.C. and expected to learn more about my nation. However, I was exposed to a new understanding of the world through each of your eyes. Each one of us came here for a reason, whether you are a Russian girl whose life-long dream was to study U.S. foreign policy in America, an Indian woman searching for an opportunity she couldn’t receive in her repressive home country, or a middle-aged veteran looking for an opportunity to start over. Whatever your journey was to get here don’t let self-doubt cripple you. Or let the fear of the unknown paralyze you into not fulfilling your dreams. If life closes one door you find another exit and if the exit is locked, climb through the window."

 

As I neared the end of my speech, I began to reflect on everything we've all experienced here together. The valuable lessons we've learned and shared and how it will shape the way we view the world after this program. I know that we will take with us the memories we shared, the professional contacts we’ve made and the reassurance that you can survive the real world. Because that’s the unique sense of purpose that the Washington Center has infused in us — the conviction that this is a training ground not only for individual success, but for leadership that can change the world.

 

"So know that when building your path you will get dirty. It won’t be easy and there will be difficulties along the way. But as you face this transition in your life, face it with the strength to exceed expectations and overcome any obstacle set in front of you. This may be the end of one chapter in your life, but the beginning to a new one; and with that I say, no matter the struggles you face in the world outside these doors, remember to never let the world change you, you change the world.

 

I walked away from the podium and the crowd roared with cheer. I know that it's okay that I haven't completed everything I wanted to do while here because my chapter in D.C. isn't complete yet. This is not goodbye because I know I will see many of you in the future.

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