2013 Valedictory Celebration - Teboho Moja, Faculty Speaker
I stand her today to bring you greetings from faculty and to congratulate you on your achievement. Greetings to you all - the parents, friends, family members, to your communities and all those who made it possible for you to sit in this beautiful space and celebrate your achievements. I am proud to say that when you educate one graduate of Steinhardt you educate the family and the community from where that graduate comes from.
Before I proceed, let me borrow from what is common in most African cultures. One does not just get up and speak but gets permission from the audience to speak as a way of making sure that they want to listen to the speaker. To get that permission you ask the audience if you should speak and if they want you to speak they respond and shout back to say SPEAK!
Therefore, should I speak?
Should I speak?
I bring these greetings to you as you prepare yourself for a journey that will take you away from us. Today reminds me of my own journey and I recall sitting in what we called the Great Hall in a university in South Africa graduating with a master’s degree just like you today. I was getting ready to leave for the US to continue my studies in Wisconsin. I sat there contemplating on what to take with me from my country to another country, and decided that I would take with me part of my culture to share with others. The part of my culture that I decided to take with me is what we refer to as U-B-U-N-T-U. There is no translation that can do justice to the concept but attempts have been made to translate that. UBUNTU derived from a word that refers to being a human, means bringing humanity to others. The practical meaning of the word is “I am what I am because of who we all are.” Coming to Steinhardt I felt the existence of UBUNTU even though it was not called that. It was here at our School that I found a community, that despite its broad diversity, it was a welcoming and an embracing community. As graduates of the Steinhardt School of Culture, Human Development and Education. I know I can confidently say that you are taking with you UBUNTU because you are what you are, because of who we all are. Take who you have become, to the communities you are going to. BE Steinhardt!
You are leaving the community that you have been part of for the last two years here at Steinhardt, and for some perhaps leaving the city too. Separation is not new to any of us, and it is not always a bad thing. At birth we separated from the parent and adapted to a different life. Later in life we separated from the family homes to go to school, college etc. I remember leaving home at the age of thirteen to go to a school in a rural area to try and get better education than the one that was offered in the urban area where I lived. My parents wanted the best for me under very difficult conditions prevailing in my country, South Africa, at that time. There are some of you sitting in this audience who have visited and studied in that changed and beautiful country, right? Okay, let me get back to my story. The separation from my family was a major step for me at a very young age. I left home and went ahead to become part of a community I never knew. On the day I left, I thought my parents; my family and all those around me did not love me at all for them to send me to a rural prison like boarding school with no hot water in winter. Today when I look back I realize that, that step was the beginning of an education journey that ultimately led me to New York and specifically to NYU. Coming to NYU you also separated from the communities you came from, found and formed a new community at the Steinhardt.
Your separation today from the Steinhardt community is a good separation too, to be celebrated as it translates to you going away to extend Steinhardt and our community here to other communities a bit further away from us. Take with you UBUNTU and the NYU Torch. You are carrying the NYU torch to the world and for that we wish you well. We are confident that you will not be lost in translation in those communities because we take pride here at NYU as being one with the communities around us and communities further away. Today – graduates, you are who you are because of who we are at Steinhardt! BE Steinhardt!!! Congratulations!!