As part of his visit to New College of Florida on May 22nd,
Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish spoke at The 49th Commencement of New College of Florida ceremony, where he received an Honorary Doctorate in Law.
Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish’s speech as Keynote Speaker at The 49th Commencement of New College of Florida
President O’Shea, Mr. Monda, honored guests, faculty and staff, ladies and gentlemen.
It’s my great honor and pleasure to be the first Arab and Muslim and Palestinian in the history of New College of Florida to have this honor and to come and speak to you, heart to heart, and mind to mind.
This is a moment where I am so moved and thrilled and I dedicate this great honor to the people who deserve it — my beloved daughters Bessan, Mayar, Aya and Noor, and those who are voiceless in this world.
And now I would like to address the graduate students.
Let me start by congratulating you and your families as you begin your professional life. It’s a promising gathering with a strong belief in the presence of hope.
Do I wish to be in your place? I can say yes, because you are the hope and future. It reminds me of the first day at the medical school in Cairo. I wanted to succeed and to go back home where my parents and my people are waiting for me to help them in their life.
There are serious challenges facing the world, but I believe there is no greater challenge than the lack of personal responsibility. I can say to you from today, you need to take personal responsibility as it transcends the circumstances and situation in which we find ourselves.
We need to learn and practice to challenge ourselves to work for a just human, peaceful world.
Question yourself whether you want to run and hide by ignoring the problem or to integrate yourselves and cooperate.
Daughters for Life Foundation’s Founder Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish with NCF President Dr. O’Shea
I faced many challenges but as life increased my aches, pain and suffering at the same time, life amplified my maturity, awareness, strength and did not allow all the difficulties to kill my dreams. I found myself in a life as challenging as a raging and wild ocean.
Always, I listen to my inner voice, and I challenge you to listen to your inner voice — do it; take it. Don’t say no in your life — after you try, then you can decide if you want to say no.
Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars; to change the world.
Also I learned as a physician what life and death actually mean when a person dies.
I learned to value all life immensely and to realize that others have needs and sufferings that I wanted to alleviate through my work as a physician.
Some may see that tolerance is weakness and silence is a defeat; but they do not know that resilience and tolerance need a greater power of that needed for revenge and that silence is more powerful than words.
I encourage you to Dream big … Don’t underestimate yourself.
The first step in failure is to lose confidence in yourself. Don’t reject yourself — let others reject you … not to blame, but to take responsibility and move forward.
The world is endemic with violence, injustice, fear and hatred. These socioeconomic diseases cross barriers and borders.
We need to invest more and cooperate in order to achieve the security, freedom and justice for all, which guarantees the safety for everyone.
And we live in a small world. No one is far from risk and we all are impacted either directly or indirectly by the violence in our world.
We all are potential victims. We don’t want to continue to be potential victims. We want to be survivors in this world, and be free in our world. This needs honesty and truth because light is more than just abstract. Light is the truth, and the education you are getting here is the light which leads you in darkness. Truth goes side by side with responsibility. It’s the responsibility of all and in particular the intellectuals to speak the truth and expose the lie.
Honesty and truth mean doing the right thing in the right way at the right time. To endure this world we need truth and justice. You are here to learn and see the truth and act to bring justice to this world.
You come to learn to be enlightened and see things differently and enlarge your universe. Education is about creating a world of justice and hope and eradicating injustice.
Education builds a new generation who believe that advancing human civilization is a joint active project and that the most holy things in the universe are humans and freedom. Establishing a safe, secure, just and peaceful world is the function of women’s education and role.
That’s why Daughters for Life was established. And the tragedy cannot be the end of our lives, we cannot allow it to control and defeat us.
Because Einstein said, life is like riding a bicycle. To keep balanced, we must keep moving. Stronger, more determined, not to give up, not to look backwards.
I wrote my book, I Shall Not Hate, because our enemies in the world is not the humans, it is ignorance of ourselves and others; our arrogance; our fear and greed. The great Lebanese poet, Khalil Jubran, once said: Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.
The antidote of hatred and revenge is education and success. Not to accept to be a victim in life more than once.
I succeeded in my life but will never forget from where I came, and that there are millions of people win this world waiting for you and for us to give them a hand, to save them and to help them.
My daughter Shatha, who is a graduate and will celebrate her graduation this June 15th at the University of Toronto, her journey inspires and drives me. She refused to be a victim and education was her way out. Nothing is impossible in life.
She lost the sight in one eye and two malformed fingers — but she didn’t give up and she will never be defeated.
And that’s what I say: The disability is the disability in our souls and in our minds.
We are not as different as we think we are; or as the media describes us to be. In fact, we are all very similar. Look at you as a graduate, how similar and joyful you are! We might differ in matters of ideologies and opinions but at the end of the day our humanity never fails to bring us closer together. For humanity, in its purest of forms, knows no race, color or religion, all human beings have the capacity for compassion.
A strong building requires a solid infrastructure, and so it is the case with life. One of the most important of these support pillars is human relationships.
And we are born, we live, and we leave this world. That is the basic human life cycle. What we do in between, and whether our death is simply our fading away, or if the resonance of our actions will continue to ring in the ears of the living, and the needy people on this world, is what distinguishes us. Cultivating a deep trust in ourselves is the beginning of making a difference for those around us. When the power, and ego dictate who can be heard, be free, and who can act, and where to go, then the whole are oppressed and impoverished.
We all bleed the same color. No cause in the world can justify the killing of the suffering of any human being.
We all are human and we all love and cry.
So I encourage you as you leave here, to look around, to ask, to learn, to connect and act.
We know how to defeat diseases and cancer. We also know how to defeat the injustice, intimidation, occupation, oppression, fear and poverty.
I fully believe that we have the knowledge, the talent, the strength but we need the good will to make the world a better one.
And with hope there are unlimited possibilities and opportunities. What must you do? What kind of people must you be? You must be people of values, vision and leadership.
You need to establish your own values. Values provide the bases for health and peace and define who we are. Values include respect for human dignity and social justice. You must promote these values and live your lives by these values with passion, courage and persistence.
You also need to be people of vision. Your visions provide goals for the future and guidance on how to reach them.
You need to be leaders who translate these values and visions into actions, who call forth leadership in others, who not only do things right but who choose to do the right things in the right time in spite of the consequences. Do not hesitate to take risks.
As Mahatma Gandhi said: Be the change you want to see in the world. You need to be leaders who do not seek personal credit for what you accomplish, but who know that true acknowledgement is in the realization of your values, vision and leadership.
I came here because I believe in you. Have faith, have hope and most important — take action and do something to make a difference in this world.
Congratulations again, go in confidence the world is waiting for you as you are the hope, the new and new leaders of this world. God bless you and your parents.