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Student Commencement Address at American University

American University has always been a place for speeches, ever since the famous speech “A Strategy of Peace” given by the President John F. Kennedy on June 10, 1963. Despite the fact that the President spoke about the importance of peace for his country in the context of that decade, we can agree that everything he spoke about is still relevant to this day. I would like to follow the President’s example and dedicate my speech to the importance of peace in this university, in our society, country, as well as the rest of the world.

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On the other hand, I am not merely as experienced as the great Martin Luther King or Dalai Lama, who managed to grasp the concept of peace to its core and wanted to change the world for the better. As a one person, I am too ‘small’ to change this world for the better; however, I believe that you, the audience, can help me on this journey.

What my experience studying here has taught me is that every single one of us deals with personal struggles. While some of us experience immense pressure from the society and are forced to fit in with the rest of the crowd, those ‘at the top’ are struggling with maintaining their authority and never taking a step away from their path. Pressure always causes conflict, as evidenced by the long history of human development. At those times when we feel pressure, anger, or stress, we often react unexplainably and may cause harm to those around us, whether physically or mentally.

We all should remember that violence and abuse are never answers to any problem, however horrific it may seem at times. Very often we, as students and as people who are only starting their life journey, take our social life within a university too seriously as if everything depends on it. I would like to assure that five years from now, when all of us graduate and start a professional career or have kids, we will remember these university days as the most careless time of our life.

Getting back to the topic of peace, there have been many horrific global events that shook our community as well as many other people around the world. Terrorism is the largest issue that we must address today in order to save as many innocent people as possible. Unfortunately, this problem has so far been resolved either radically or very softly. While it is important not to develop the bias towards those members of the community that fall under the ‘risk’ category, we must pay extra attention to our safety and develop a cohesive framework of preventative measures that will ensure security in public places, including campuses. Of course, we should also address the topic of gun control and make sure that we come to a mutual agreement concerning it.

Abuse on university campuses has been another problem that is currently extensively discussed. Many students may experience verbal abuse from their peers, and some of them may become victims of physical abuse. The notorious cases of Audrie Pott and Daisy Coleman (victims of sexual assault) have educated so many of us about the importance of staying safe and being smart when it comes to parties and other social gatherings. While I am reluctant to limit anyone’s rights regarding having fun, it is crucial to remember that many troubles come from us not being responsible for our actions. Educating ourselves about the ways in which we can control violence on campus will be a valuable experience, and no one else will do it better than us.

When being a student, I have learned that aggression and defensiveness will never bring any fruitful results. Instead, one may engage in a constructive conversation to find a common solution to a problem. While there may be some points on which people will disagree, there also may be points on which they will agree. A mutual agreement is a start to any change for the better, regardless of the severity and reach of the issue. Today, I would like us all to agree on one thing that establishing peace in our society is the key goal, for which we should strive. President Kennedy said that it is important to create “not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.”

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These words still resonate with our society today and are as relevant as they were fifty years ago. Therefore, we should not underestimate the legacy of John F. Kennedy’s words and invest our efforts into making sure that his legacy continues to grow and bring results. I would like to close this speech by saying that if we want the future generations and ourselves to live in balance and peace, we should start acting now.

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