Commencement Speech by Tariq Hasan '09
For many of you, you will hear me speak more in the next three minutes than in all the years you’ve known me, so I’ll try to make my words count. For the past four years, I’ve seen my classmates laugh, cry, and, since this is Soka, spread rumors about one another without thinking twice. Every single one of us knows at least a dozen things about the person sitting to our left, each one down to the minutest detail. Take a quick look around and just think of all the juicy little stories you know about everyone in your row. At any normal sized college, none of us would ever put up with the social problems we have here. Most of us would probably just start taking new paths to class, find new friends, and find a new social ladder to climb - but not at Soka. In this tiny campus, surrounded by coyotes and wilderness on one side and wary suburbanites on the other, we’ve been forced to look each other in the eye and hear criticisms, rumors, and insults from our friends and loved ones, make horrible mistakes with our relationships, and put on shameful performances for birthdays. And yet for some reason, in spite of it all, we’ve loved every minute of our time here. I know personally I just like watching you guys drive one another other crazy, but when I do get mixed up in drama I’m glad it’s at a school as forgiving as Soka.
Even though I’ve tried my best to black out most of it, I do remember how most of us, myself included, were nothing but a bunch of wild, obnoxious know-it-alls during our freshman year. We wouldn’t actually look down on other schools for not having a vision or noble plan to save humanity, but we did think a little too highly of ourselves for kids who had only just finished Core I. Hopefully, we all now know that simply being Soka students doesn’t automatically make us better, or smarter, or more compassionate than any other person in the world. Even these caps and gowns that we paid fifty bucks for, or these diplomas that we struggled for through sickness, and family emergencies, and near fatal accidents can’t say anything about us other than we were able to do what millions of other people have already accomplish. What we do in the coming years, however, is where the real test begins and we see just how useful our degrees actually are.
Becoming “global citizens”, which was the entire point of these past four years, does not simply mean that we expanded our minds by leaving the country for a semester, especially since half of us are already international students. Being a global citizen, to me, means very simply - without a ten page humanities paper backed by examples from leading scholars and philosophers - that we recognize that people are people wherever you go. That is it. Every single person you have ever met or will meet in the future is a human being just like you and should be given the respect and compassion that a human being deserves, regardless of whether they’re suffering, or rich, or ignorant, or vulgar, or mentally unstable. Whatever you do with the rest of your time, whether it’s teaching, working for the UN, acting, zookeeping, whatever, is just a minor detail. As long as you all remember that, just like at Soka, even the most spiteful and hate filled person can have moments of saint-like compassion, your time here will not have been wasted.
Of course this would be a pretty poor speech if I didn’t give my thanks to all the people who helped me along the way. There’s my parents and my sisters who supported me even though I never called as often as I should have, my professors who slowly changed me from a pretentious freshman into a smart-ass senior, and, of course, all of my classmates and underclassmen who managed to make everyday interesting, for better or worse. Thank you everyone.