The following remarks were delivered at UB’s 160th general commencement ceremony May 14
There is a saying that when you reach the end, you always look back and remember the beginning. Today as I stand in front of the Class of 2006, the only thing coming to mind is the beginning of my university life at UB. I can visualize the scene again and again; it was Sunday, August 15, 2004—11:30 p.m. at Dubai International Airport in the United Arab Emirates. I was leaving home for Buffalo. As I said that last good-bye to my family and friends, I saw hope, expectation and a tinge of sadness in their eyes. Boarding the Boeing 747, I knew my life would change forever.
The next 16 hours were a time of questions, concerns and tremendous uncertainty: How would I be treated in the U.S., post 9/11? Had I made the right decision in leaving my parents, my family, my home? Was UB even the right choice for me? My country, culture, experiences and language were all different. Would I ever fit in? High above the clouds, I grappled with these issues.
Two years after that bumpy plane ride, I know the answer—these have been two of the most spectacular years of my life. The academics and extracurricular activities were great. Even my on-campus job was great. Yet what really left a valuable mark on my mind were those special moments of human interaction and relationships that can never be translated into words.
I came to this university as an international transfer student ready to experience America. I will never forget my first Thanksgiving dinner with David’s family, when I ate turkey, saw an American football game and learned the difference between a tackle and a touchdown. Or the time my roommate Ian spent six hours helping me pronounce “vodka” not “wodka.” My first Easter dinner was spent with Jen’s family. They stuffed me with food, making me tired of eating for the first time in my life. I realized that night that as different as we are—different countries, cultures, continents—inherently we are still the same.
At UB, I learned things I never realized, even coming from a cosmopolitan city like Dubai. I learned the value of respecting cultures, traditions and one another. I learned that we can live together in harmony and with respect. UB gave me a lesson in diversity and an identity that for someone like me is precious and sacred. For instance, I never would have dreamed I would be standing here today as the student speaker for the class of 2006.
Now I can see another dream, that of me attending this university’s commencement in 2030 as a proud parent—like my parents sitting here today—and seeing my own child as the student speaker.
Mohammed Faraz Javed (Photo by James Ulrich)
My experiences these past two years—of being a student, a resident advisor and a suite director—have helped me become a better person. I now understand the actual meaning of the word “responsibility.” I have collected a treasure of knowledge in both my education and in my life.
All this has made one thing very clear to me: It takes just a little understanding, a little sensitivity, a little open-mindedness, a little empathy to make us forget all the differences and see each other as human beings, friends, brothers and sisters.
Let us start right here from the University at Buffalo and keep making a difference—just like you have made in my life.
Mohammed Faraz Javed graduated from UB magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in media study and a minor in computer science. A member of the Golden Key International Honor Society, Javed was a resident advisor for two years and was recognized with the National Residence Hall Honorary Top 3 RA award and the Student Scholar Leadership Award. He won the 2003 Best Actor award and 2004 Best Dancer award in a nationwide talent hunt in his native Dubai. Javed plans to pursue a career in the film industry.