SID Commencement speaker: Prince Mujumbe Salama, MA SID'20

May 31, 2020

Prince Mujumbe Salama, MA SID'20

Dean Weil, faculty members, family, friends, fellow Heller graduates, and ladies and gentlemen: 

When in 1996, my siblings and I ran away for our lives as rebels took over our town of Bukavu in Zaïre, today known as the Democratic Republic of Congo; when we suddenly became internally displaced people, walking for hours on an empty stomach and finding solace in anything that looked like food, I learned to appreciate life and enjoy every bit of it. Going through that season, nothing could have told me that today, I would be standing in front of you to give this speech.

When in 2000 I held my dead father in my hands, shot in my presence because, maybe, he was a threat to those in search of power, all hope for life seemed to have evaporated in the air. But even though darkness covered the whole world around me, hope tickled inside and kept me alive to this day as, I believe, my late father can be proud of his son receiving a degree from one of America’s prestigious universities.

Joining the Heller School was not only an opportunity to learn from lectures and books, but in my opinion, from the entire humanity embedded in Heller’s diversity. Just as an African proverb puts it, “it takes an entire village to raise a child.”

Think of those wonderful cleaners who would arrive on campus before anyone else to make sure the premises were clean. Think of the Heller administration and staff who made sure the environment was good enough for our mind, body, and soul’s development. Or have you forgotten those surprise breakfasts and free coffee with the Dean?

A round of applause to our brilliant lecturers who audaciously took on the task to shift to virtual mode on such a short notice. And even though the greatest challenge for them was to keep us motivated and engaged, we are glad to have gone through this learning process in unison. Physically distanced by circumstances but socially connected by love. Because Heller is not just a village. It is a family; a community that we all share the responsibility to maintain. We also have learned from each other’s rich and unique experiences.

Fellow graduates, here we are ready to embark on this new journey away from Heller. Truth be told, it is dark out there. But believe you me, no amount of darkness can frustrate the smallest candle. We are the candles that today the Heller School can be proud to release on the marketplace. There is hopelessness out there in our deserted streets. But is that not a reason enough for us to believe and see an opportunity to create, innovate, and bring about the sustainable development that we claim? I am reminded of this song: “This little light of mine, I am gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine.”

Class of 2020, would you be the light that our planet so desperately craves for? By giving a smile to those in our communities that need it. By being the voice to the voiceless. By championing actions that preserve and protect our planet.

I imagine you and I in the future, looking back a few years down and saying, “I am glad I kept my light shining.” At least, we will go down memory lane as the generation of scholars that graduated during one of the most unique periods that humanity has ever experienced.

We have fought the good fight, we have finished our race, and we have kept the faith.

As we move on, remember, you are special my friends.

Keep your light shining! Keep our world standing.

God bless you!

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