Leandre Waldo, Director of Media Relations
Phone: (802) 923-6195
Madam Chairwoman and members of the Board of Trustees . . .
President Laackman . . . Cabinet Members
Faculty and staff . . .
Distinguished guests . . .
My fellow students . . .
Al Salamu ‘alaykum Wa Rahmatu Allahi wa Barakatuhu
In my Language -Arabic, I just offered you a greeting of Peace
It is a sincere honor to be standing here today, representing the class of 2015.
Growing up in a tense and divided place like the Palestinian city of Hebron makes life hard to live, hard to accept, and hard to imagine beyond the daily realities.
For an eleven-year-old child, that offers two very difficult choices: the choice to remain determined and optimistic in the face of harsh political and physical realities or to surrender to the status quo.
As a child, I was lucky enough because I dared to dream despite the odds, and because I had parents who taught me the value of work . . . At the age of eleven, while selling small household items at a street-side stand, I dared to believe I could have a brighter future - and help create one for others.
The street-side stand was wedged between two checkpoints that divided the northern and southern parts of my hometown.
Every day during my summer working at the stand, I ate lunch with children my age. Children, who had to work to help provide for their families.
The bread that we shared made us brothers, not only in our daily work but also in our dream for a better life.
Although we became brothers, unlike most of them, I had a chance to go to school. And because I was privileged enough to be getting a formal education, I aspired to become their voice and to be their advocate both in Palestine and around the world.
In recent years, advancements in communication have reached across our geographical, political, social and cultural borders.
We can now address global challenges and open up unlimited opportunities simultaneously.
But, if we are able to so easily cross these borders, the question becomes: WHAT ELSE MUST WE DO to address the inequities that exist worldwide?
The answer lies in the mission of this very college that we are graduating from today . . . The answer lies in the stories and experiences of every student sitting here concluding a remarkable four year journey.
There are 595 students graduating today, and there are 595 unique stories about challenges and successes . . . Stories that inspire and motivate.
For the past four years, each one of us in this class has been through our own unique academic experience designed to answer the economic and social challenges of the 21st century.
Each one of us had the opportunity to identify a new potential; new paths through which we not only identify ourselves as new professionals, but also as active citizens of our countries and of the world.
We embarked on new adventures . . . We studied abroad . . . We did community service and some students have even started businesses.
We have been empowered by technological and intellectual tools that have paved the way for us to be committed and engaged global citizens, who share a responsibility toward challenges that face our communities, our peoples, and our World.
We took advantage of opportunities available to us in the form of internships and part-time work. That helped enhance our professional growth and our ability to bring exceptional talent.
In the Spring of the 2012, as a first year student, I had my first part-time job; I was a communication assistant at Champlain College's Emergent Media Center.
In that role, I was lucky enough to participate in the fostering of a partnership between the Champlain College Emergent Media Center and my hometown Hebron to implement summer camps for children.
They learned about BREAKAWAY, a soccer video game designed by Champlain College faculty and students to help tackle violence against women and girls.
With the help of a fellow Champlain student from El Salvador, that same model, was taken to and implemented in the city of Sonsonate in El Salvador in 2013 and 2014.
To this day, the BREAKAWAY Summer Camps initiative has reached more than 600 youth and children.
It is a place like the Champlain College's Emergent Media Center were we learned -and were supported to- prove how new media tools can tackle a social challenge such as Violence Against Women and Girls.
It is Champlain College's culture that motivates students to push boundaries and take part in a global conversation . . .
It is Champlain College's commitment to the future of its students that enables every one of us to feel part of a larger cause whether it be in Palestine, El Salvador, Nepal, here in the United States or anywhere around the World.
Through the support, mentorship, and advice of each of our professors and advisors that we cherish, doors have been opened for us.
I will sorely miss sharing coffee with some of my professors to talk about class and careers and debate world politics.
We have felt challenged, supported, appreciated, and uplifted by each of you.
Thank you Champlain faculty . . .
Thank you Champlain staff . . .
Thank you Champlain families . . .
And, to my family, I say:
Shukran ya ommi . . . Shukran ya abi . . .
Thank you Champlain friends and supporters for making these four years rewarding and transformative beyond our wildest expectations.
You may wonder how could I, a Palestinian child growing up in a divided and occupied city, be optimistic?
The answer can be found in the words of renowned economist and former Prime Minister, Dr. Salam Fayyad, who says: "You have absolutely no choice if you are Palestinian but to be optimistic. Optimism to me is not a state of mind, it is an act of conscious determination and decision making."
Today, significant challenges face our world; from integrating refugees into our schools to extremism and climate change.
In answer to the question of: WHAT ELSE MUST WE DO to address the inequities that exist worldwide?
Dr. Fayyad's words apply to every one of us as we shape the next phases of our lives as professionals, citizens, fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers.
Fellow graduates, I invite you to join me in making the decision to move through the world with optimism, with belief in a better world, a world which we will help to shape and embrace. Thank you.
Founded in 1878, Champlain College is a small, not-for-profit, private college in Burlington, Vermont, with additional campuses in Montreal, Canada, and Dublin, Ireland. Champlain offers a traditional undergraduate experience from its beautiful campus overlooking Lake Champlain and over 90 residential undergraduate and online undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certificates. Champlain's distinctive career-driven approach to higher education embodies the notion that true learning occurs when information and experience come together to create knowledge. Champlain College is included in the Princeton Review's The Best 384 Colleges: 2019 Edition. For the fourth year in a row, Champlain was named a "Most Innovative School" in the North by U.S. News & World Report's 2019 "America's Best Colleges,” and a “Best Value School” and is ranked in the top 100 “Regional Universities of the North” and in the top 25 for “Best Undergraduate Teaching.” Champlain is also featured in the Fiske Guide to Colleges for 2019 as one of the "best and most interesting schools" in the United States, Canada and Great Britain and is a 2019 College of Distinction. For more information, visit champlain.edu.