President Gearan, Congressman Lewis, Members of the Board of Trustees, Members of the Faculty, Staff, Geneva Community, Guests, and especially, Fellow Students, it is a true honor for me to speak at this year´s Convocation. This event is very special to me because I can still remember my first year here and how excited I was to carry my flag. I felt like somehow I had become the official representative for my country, Colombia... a country in which violence provides a sense of normalcy, and peace is a privilege that only a few can dare to dream about. It is that idea of peace, that notion of not recurring to violence, one that has resonated so closely with me from Congressman Lewis´ outstanding life story.
Congressman Lewis and the way he has lived his life not only serve as an outstanding example for those born and raised within these national borders, but also for those of us who come from abroad. His impact is truly international, and the struggle he, and many others have committed their lives to, is one that speaks directly to the everyday experience of so many individuals around the world.
As we unite as a community to celebrate the beginning of a new academic year, Congressman Lewis´ words serve as a source of guidance for all of us, particularly us students, as it invites us to reflect on how we view ourselves as individuals, but also how we see ourselves as part of this community.
Let us admire Congressman Lewis´ life as an example of courage, commitment, citizenship, moral responsibility, and especially, peaceful yet powerful and determined action.
Your life, Congressman Lewis, is an inspiration, a testament of the type of leadership present at a time in which students would peacefully raise their voices to express their truest commitment to equality and justice. As students we are responsible to continue and honor your legacy, and that of the men and women that marched by your side, by maintaining our ongoing effort to rescue student activism, by continuing to pursue social justice and inclusiveness.
It is as we unite as a community that we have the chance to recognize that your struggle is one very close to our own, the one of our everyday lives as students, and that just like you became an important catalyst for change while being a student, so could we.
All of us here at HWS are privileged to receive the power that we are granted through education. It is a gift that HWS is giving each one of us, and that we give one another, as members of this community. That same education that Martin Luther King and Congressman Lewis value so highly, that education that allowed them to dream big, and not only dream, but act as well. It is a gift that provides us with the potential to improve our surroundings, to make the most of our opportunities, and to have a positive effect on the lives of others, whether they are sitting right next to us, or halfway across the world. It is our time to dream that we can do it, and say that will we do it, and do it.
It is for that reason that we should follow Congressman Lewis’ example. Doing so requires us all to be humble, in the case of us students, recognize that after all we are just students, individuals trying to learn from others, to learn from one another, but following his example also requires that we believe, believe that we too can make a difference, that we are not only capable, but actually responsible to continue to help shape our community into the one we envision, into one in which inclusiveness will be an essential element in our communal and individual journeys towards excellence.
Congressman Lewis, we thank you for the example of your life!
Student Response, Felipe Estefan '08
August 29, 2007