Noor Oweis '11 - Student Speaker

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Seventeen years ago, we kissed our parents goodbye and marched with our Power Ranger backpacks and "My Little Pony" lunch boxes to start our first day of kindergarten. Thirteen years later, a moment just 4 years ago, our parents finally said their real goodbyes and we found ourselves in a similar state, alone in our freshman halls - excited, nervous, and maybe even a little scared? This time you wouldn't be coming home in a few hours to watch Hey Arnold and show your mom the play-dough masterpiece you created. Instead, almost immediately after your parents drove off, you would meet the people who would change you forever as you entered college life, becoming part of this new family. Congratulations Gettysburg College Class of 2011, we've made it this far.

For many of us, freshman year was full of new beginnings. We learned the traditions at Gettysburg, both formal and otherwise. Like going to servo with almost your entire floor and being lucky enough to realize our Omelet Lady really is one of a kind. We learned the blessing of midnight madness and the uniqueness of events, like the hypnotist, at the Attic. Being at Gettysburg meant all night library parties or late night chats about bio labs and the meaning of life.

We soon came to realize our professors were more than just lecturers, but true advisors and mentors far beyond the classroom. In picking our roommates and housemates for the following years, many of us sealed our futures with lifelong friends. Gettysburg has truly been our home for the last 4 years and on this day, we see the gathering of our upbringings with the lives we made for ourselves and it is truly something amazing.

I was fortunate enough to study abroad in the fall of my sophomore and junior years, traveling to Beijing and Cairo for two semesters. In China, I learned ¿¿¿,¿¿¿ (qiong ze bian, bian ze tong), meaning: "when out of means, seek change and then opportunities will come," so I tested my limits and tried as many new things as possible. And in Egypt, I spent countless hours with my cousins, where I lived by the saying ¿¿¿ ¿ ¿¿ ¿ ¿¿¿ ¿ ¿¿¿ :¿¿¿ ¿¿¿¿¿ (eish ayamak, Dahk wa l3b wa gedd wa hub) which means live your life: laugh and play, work hard and love. While being thousands of miles away is exciting and invaluable, there is something to say for missing my Gettysburg family during the months I was abroad. Upon my return each spring, I was definitely ready to come back to Gettysburg.

These last 4 years have inducted us into the legacies Gettysburgians have been leaving for decades. The end of this ceremony may signal major transitions in our lives, but there are things about Gettysburg that will always bind us as a great and unique community.

As with every family, we have bonded through hardship and misfortune and learned to celebrate the accomplishments of each Gettysburgian with great pride and honor. Towards the end of our sophomore year, we lost one of our own. The passing of Emily Silverstein touches each of us differently and is a tragedy that will forever bind us as a family. While each of our connections to events that Spring varies, we have each come to know and understand Emily as a compassionate, kind and loving Gettysburgian, the true marks of our community here. And in that time of crisis we came together as a strong, compassionate community, drawing upon each other for strength and kindness and it was in that time that the truest essence of our identity as a Gettysburg family came through.

We have also celebrated momentous feats together as a community. Not only are we Centennial Conference champions, but Fulbright scholars, innovative researchers, and world travelers.  For each of us, our experiences are as much shared as they are our own. During our time here, we saw the election of the first black president of the United States as well as appointment of one of the greatest presidents in Gettysburg's history. We survived snowpocolypse last year, as more than 4 feet of snow blanketed our campus. The epic snowball fight, involving picnic table fortresses and igloos lasted for days and for many, servo trays and frisbees served as great sleds down the stairs of Weidenensall and Breidenbaugh halls.

We'll certainly miss those ever-informative emails from Hayden, how our lawns won't be perfectly manicured and that Bill Lafferty won't be there to remind us about locking our doors or protecting our textbooks. We'll even miss the sound of Glatfelter letting us know that it's already 3am and we still haven't finished that paper. Our time at Gettysburg has been as unique and valuable as each of us sitting here today.

From the openings at Schmucker, to senior recitals, academic publications, and prestigious internships, each of us has gained a tremendous amount from the personal investments we have made through hard work and the institutional investments Gettysburg has bestowed upon us, because the faculty, staff and administration trust that through the impeccable guidance and undeniable patience of our mentors here, we are destined for greatness. Because after all, over the last four years, what has been engrained in us more than to "do GREAT work."

Today is our day to reflect and rejoice in our accomplishments. Whatever comes next in your life, hold on to that Gettysburg spirit, to the values and ideals that made us great as Bullets and will make us great as adults. We could not be better prepared to face a world with countless possibilities for each of our assets. Take what you've been braced with and enter this next chapter of life with a non-judgmental attitude and faith in yourself. Graced with a legacy of excellence, we are a force of optimistic, open-minded individuals.  Make a commitment to yourself, a promise that you will continue with this tradition, create new ones, and live to the standard of being a true Gettysburgian.

While next year many of us will inadvertently write the Honor Code on our first grad school assignments or ship out to various jobs all over the country and world, when our new real world companions ask where we're from, I'm sure so many of us will respond longingly of Gettysburg and the special place it will remain for all of us. Though it may be some time before many of us can return, we will carry with us the lifelong lessons we learned here. We will grow to be responsible adults, kind to our neighbors, thoughtful of our co-workers, and ever so polite to even strangers because we have learned to appreciate the compassion and benevolence that comes with seeing familiar faces every day. While we may miss the orange and blue flowers, Spring Fest concerts, Servo Thanksgivings and Sunday-Fun-days, we are lucky enough to carry these memories with us for the rest of our lives.

Congratulations Gettysburg College Class of 2011, the world awaits you.

Thank You.