I am so happy to be here today. But three years ago when I handed in my application to the office of graduate admission, I was full of doubt! But I listened to my inner voice, which was very clear, powerful andshed a guiding light on my path! I listened to it and started on the journey to become a social worker advocate for peace and justice.

I come from Iran, a country where basic human rights are violated, and the access to higher education denied based on religious discriminations. By law, I was not allowed to attend college because of myBaha’i faith!

When I left my home and family behind, I only had one dream, it was to pursue an education! Going to college was my only motivation to come abroad, even thought  I had promised  my friends some photos of streets paved with gold and a copy of Michael Jackson’s last album!

Young, courageous, rebellious and hopeful I started my journey. I lived through the difficult refugee experience and made it to America, the land of opportunities, where I did not see even one street paved with gold, but saw you could have golden dreams and achieve them.

I started my degree program here at U.S.M, when I was facing many challenges and problems in my personal life.  I am proud to say that belonging to this learning community has brought lots of ongoing support and courage for me in order to continue my education and succeed.

I will be leaving this university strongly believing that, thanks to the education I received, the degree I earned today is the beginning of a new day and career for me. Education is a wonderful tool to get to a great destination. For me, the destination is a just and peaceful world. Until that is achieved, I will be working hard for justice, to be a voice for the voiceless and provide empowerment to marginalized people.

I thank you,  the University of Southern Maine, my professors, fellow students, and the hard working people in many offices who have helped me to make my dream come true.

I am a woman from the Middle East, who wishes to say to all of the women gathered here that it is your right to reach your goals. In fact, it is the right of all of us. Maybe your goal is to pursue education and work toward peace and justice, like me!

As Rumi, the 13th-century Persian poet once said, “What you seek is seeking you.”

I hope we all remain open to what seeks us!

Thank you!