Alya Al Harthy: Storytellers are "superheroes fighting apathy"
The following speech was given by student speaker Alya Al Harthy at Class of 2016 graduation on May 1:
President Schapiro, Chairman Osborn, Dean Dennis, Families and Friends, Fellow Members of the Class of 2016 - mine is a curious story. Unlike you, as most of you already know, I didn’t come to this school as an excited freshman in 2012. Instead, two years later, I found myself accepted to Northwestern as a transfer student. You see, my first four years in Education City were spent as a petroleum-engineering student next door at Texas A&M. It was not until my senior year when, torn by the trajectory my life was taking me, I decided to take a different path. I found myself moving away from what would have been a lifetime of hard science, to the home of purple pride.
Most of the people I knew were congratulating me: it’s an exciting story to hear, someone changing their life so drastically, going after something they love. My surprise though, was when people would tell me how much easier life would be, now that I’m following my passion. You know the phrase -- if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.
The last two years have been filled with experiences I would not trade for the world, but "easy" is not a word I would use to describe them. And it’s certainly been a lot of work. In fact, learning what it means to be in a media school, to write stories and research, to perform and create films, and the many other challenges that constitute this field of learning, has been more complex than anything I’ve experienced.
"Journalism and communication. These fields are about empathy. You can’t give other people’s stories justice, if you don’t attempt to understand them. And by consistently doing that, you become humbled by the sheer diversity of voices, and the power they hold. By dedicating our lives to these stories, we become agents of that power, superheroes fighting apathy."
I say this as a person who has achieved far less than my peers in the batch of 2016. In two years, I’ve watched my fellow classmates create thought-provoking, artistic pieces, beyond classroom requirements and letter grades. We’ve negotiated the intricate balance between personal creativity and general knowledge, the hardships involved in painting a story through interviews, or a narrative through camera angles, and the hours spent searching for the right words. We’ve also experienced grueling failures, and frustrations that only a media student in Qatar can attest to.
So why did we make this choice? Why continue on this road?
To share your stories.
Our time at Northwestern has been pushing us to higher goals and harder journeys. But at the end of every experience, tiring as it may seem, we want to do it again. Northwestern has consistently reaffirmed our choice to be here, to connect people, to change perspectives.
Journalism and communication. These fields are about empathy. You can’t give other people’s stories justice, if you don’t attempt to understand them. And by consistently doing that, you become humbled by the sheer diversity of voices, and the power they hold. By dedicating our lives to these stories, we become agents of that power, superheroes fighting apathy.
When I transferred to Northwestern, I thought I was making this crazy decision of changing my career path. But it’s not just that. It was about changing how I saw the world. By choosing this field, you may be following a passion. Passions can also change. You are not passive in this life. Each decision you make is an active choice. Regardless, we are tasking ourselves with the responsibility of bringing to light people’s stories and bridging the gaps of humanity. And if there’s anything I want for the class of 2016, it’s to remember that our part in changing the world, is in changing how people view it.
I hope that remains true, for the rest of our lives.