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The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University

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May 22, 2016

MA-SID Commencement Speaker: Rodrigo Moran, MA-SID'16

Rodrigo Moran

Dear Heller friends and family, it is an honor and a privilege to be standing here today, when we all have come together from all around the world, to celebrate the culmination of our studies at the Heller School. You have certainly become a family away from home and I am incredibly humbled to be able to have shared these hallways, classrooms but also stories with all of you.

Since we are family, I wanted to go beyond the formalities of a graduation ceremony, and share this moment with the person responsible for everything I have accomplished. My mom. And although she is not with us anymore, I would not be here with you if it weren’t for all her sacrifices and endless love.

That is why I have written this speech in form of a letter to my mom. I wanted to share with her the incredible experience that it has been to study alongside such amazing people at the Heller School.

So, here goes…

Dear mom, I know you probably can’t hear me but I like to think that you can.

Remember when I was a little kid and wanted to be in advertisement? Well, as you know I ended up going to law school and worked as an interpreter for a while. What you don’t know is that I finally fulfilled my dream of doing my Master's studies in International Development at the Heller School of Brandeis University. When everyone else told me to settle for the next best thing, I could almost hear you telling me not to give up and to follow my heart even if that meant to change the course a little bit.

I did. Now I’m reading you this letter as I’m addressing my friends and their families in our graduation ceremony, representing the culmination of this dream we fought so hard to achieve.

Thanks mom.

Before you ask me what is International Development let me explain. In this field, my colleagues and I will apply the basic principles of empathy, compassion and social justice to try to make this world a better place. Some will fight for LBGTQ rights in South East Asia, others will work towards environmental justice in Latin America, empowering women in Afghanistan, among other daunting tasks.

I think you get the idea. After all, you are the one who taught me the most about compassion.

I also wanted to share with you some of the most memorable moments of this wonderful experience. I felt great excitement to be living my dream and studying at Heller. I stood in awe while listening to the stories of my colleagues and professors. I have laughed and I have loved. But my heart also ached when, during last fall, I witnessed how some of my brothers and sisters (including some of my best friends) felt that this school was not treating them with understanding and dignity. They took peaceful action, which inspired the rest of our community to support and cherish them.

I am really proud that Brandeis University has decided to recommit to the great and noble principles of social justice that serve as the compass for the future of this university. I am confident that the Heller School will do so too.

Anyways, I have to let you go now, mom. I will try to write you another letter soon.

By the way, I finally learned how to cook. You would be really proud.

I love you.

After sharing this letter to you, I would only like to conclude by sharing one final thought:

After this long but amazing journey, I’ve concluded that change is not so bad. Change for the development practitioner, for the peacebuilder, the policy maker, for the nonprofit manager of the 21st century means to be able to reinvent oneself, to explore and take risks, to innovate in our fields, which desperately need new solutions to old problems.

But we know that innovation comes with the risk of failure. For, as Amy Wilkinson writes, “Innovators share one trait: failure. Some fail early, most fail often. Almost all of them will fail again. But something deeper occurs as a result: Failure provokes learning.”

So I encourage all my colleagues at Heller to reroute your journeys to where it feels right. To explore new paths and avoid seeing the same landscape and the same people every day. We will realize that maybe by investing an extra minute or two, we can discover something great that was literally just around the corner. It is not a sure bet that our roads will cross, but I am certain of this…

I would love to meet you somewhere along the road.

See you there.

Knowledge Advancing Social Justice

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