Graduation 2020: Student Speaker Nadhira Nuraini Afifa, Master of Public Health

Thank you, Michelle.

It is now my great honor tointroduce this year's student speaker, Nadhira Afifa.

Each year agraduating student is selected by a panel ofstudents, staff, and faculty to represent thegraduating class.

Nadhira is receiving a masterof public health degree from the Department ofGlobal Health and Population, with a concentrationin nutrition.

Earlier this year shetraveled to Tanzania to work on malnutrition issuesamong in-school adolescents.

Right after graduation she willbe joining the global fight against COVID-19, working withthe government in Jakarta, Indonesia, to addresssome of the country's most pressing health issues, thecoronavirus pandemic included.

Please join me inwelcoming Nadhira Afifa.

Good afternoon, everyone.

Greetings to Dean Williams, faculty, staff, and alumni, and to the class of 2020.

Congratulations.

Congratulations to our parents, friends, and loved ones, without whom todaywould not be as special, as it is a day we haveall earned and should cherish together.

Let me ask you a question.

How many of you, when you were little and you were askedwhat you wanted to do, said public health professional? Me neither.

Yet we end up here.

I would never forget thefirst day of orientation at this school.

I ate my lunch in thebathroom stall with my feet on the toilet seat so no onewould know that I was there.

Back then, I was soafraid of everything.

Above all, the coffee breaks.

I was so nervous abouthaving to do this small talk.

I didn't know what to say.

I was afraid of sayingsomething wrong.

I was afraid ofbeing seen different.

Even by just wearinga hijab, I already made my identityclear, without even need to tell anyonewhat I believe in.

I had seen a lot of newsaround Islamophobia, and it concerned me.

However, it was just mysecond week at school when my perceptionbegan to change.

I found a praying room downstairs.

Surprisingly, Harvard provides us with a very convenientpraying room equipped with allthings we need for praying.

What made it evenmore special, it was my Jewishfriend who showed me the room, because he saw mepraying under the emergency stairs.

Equality, inclusivity, unity.

I cannot think of any betterplace I could learn it all but here.

Little by little, Harvard Chan and all people inside has become mynew home, 10, 000 miles away from my original one.

Albeit slowly, I came backto be a confident person my mom has raised me to be.

Mama has always beenthe one who inspires me.

She's the youngest of 11siblings, born and raised by farmers in a ruralSumatran island in Indonesia.

Farmers kids didn't goto school those days.

Her sisters andbrothers worked very hard to get mama to college, andshe didn't take it for granted.

When I was a kid, mama taughtme an important lesson in life.

Dream high because ouronly limits is our minds.

That is what keeps her goingthrough the tough times.

Despite beingunderprivileged, mama has raised three children whoall completed master's degrees.

The value that mama taughtme keeps echoing all my life.

She has raised me from a studentin a small town in Indonesia to a graduate fromthe best public health school in the world.

However, I will not stop here.

Today is only the beginningof our bigger journey, and I encourage you all topromise that we will not an impact to the world through public health.

stop ourselves to live higher, contribute more, and make an impact to the worldthrough public health.

to save the lives of millions and improvePublic health providesus with the privilege to save the lives ofmillions and improve the health and longevity ofgenerations and generations to come.

It is only throughpublic health that we can see now theentire countries have been forgettingtheir differences and pooling their resources.

Beneath the gloomy, dramaticcoronavirus headlines, there are countless tales ofcollaborations and dedications.

At this time ofcrisis, we realize that no matter how privilegedwe are or no matter where we come from, we areexposed to the same risks that, only through helpingeach other, we will survive.

For a moment, people are unitedthrough public health efforts, despite the difference inethnicity, nationality, or spirituality.

My sisters and brothers, youhave chosen to be here today because you are called toserve, to dignify the lives of people you've never even metor you may never, ever meet.

So, let me change the question.

How many of you, nowthat you've finished Harvard, will proudly say “Iam glad to be a public health professional”? Class of 2020, welcome tothe often exciting, sometimes exhausting, rarely appreciated, but always important work of public health.

Thank you.

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