Commencement speaker: ‘My message of hope to you is you’

May 14th, 2019   |   SIT Graduate Institute

SIT Commencement Student Speaker Fadia Thabet of Yemen

Video: Fadia Thabet on being named a 2017 International Woman of Courage

President, faculty members, staff, proud parents and, above all, graduates. I want to thank you all for giving me the opportunity to speak on your behalf today. Congratulations on our achievements. It has been a long journey.

When they asked me to be the student speaker for today, it crossed my mind what my previous American-Dutch country director told me when I asked for his recommendation letter to apply and pursue graduate school in the United States: “You won’t be able to do it; you won’t be able to compete with English speakers in the classroom.” These were his words, and look where I am today. I was struck by the fact that he thought I wasn’t good enough to be in an academic setting, even though I showed professional competence for more than four years.

We are eager to learn and rock the world with the power of justice, equality, and inclusion.

Since then, his words never left my mind and kept ringing in my ears. So, it has been a journey. A journey of learning about theories, best practices in the field, about getting out of our comfort zones, but most importantly a journey of writing a lot of reflection papers.

SIT for me and many others has been about the people: the people who fought and stood up for what’s right when we were holding SIT values in protest to support our professors. Students at SIT were the main motivation to walk to classes every day. SITers are different than any other students. We aren’t just students in our classes, we are practitioners with experiences, hope, and knowledge. We are eager to learn and rock the world with the power of justice, equality, and inclusion. We represent diverse groups and most importantly, we are so opinionated.

Classes didn't end when the professors dismissed us from class. The discussions and heated debates continued in El Cafe during lunch, and dinner in the dining room, and even sometimes late into the night during parties on the weekends. At SIT, we held space to talk about difficult topics such as racism, white saviors, slavery, gender equality, capitalism, Islamophobia, and so much more. But we also held space to talk about the difference between lemons and limes -- and wrote an excellent paper about it!

At SIT, we celebrated our differences before our similarities.

SIT was a life-changing experience, where I established an international family with siblings from all walks of life. Take a moment to look at the faces around you. At SIT, we celebrated our differences before our similarities. We were reminded that we have each other to hold each other accountable, to call each other out when we mess up. We were reminded that collectively we are the power of transformation. My message of hope to you is you.

SIT board members and President: Look around you. You have an army with massive skills and capacities ready to fight not just to keep this place going but thriving. For all the women here today and out there, don’t let anyone speak on your behalf or take your place at the table or have your own table. Grab a chair and fight for your place around the same table. Change won’t come without you!

SITers, we have so much work to do to make the world a better place, and somehow we will with our small contributions. It’s a torch that we picked up from the minute we submitted our essays for school admission, and we will continue keep the flame lit wherever we go.

Thank you.