Prepared text of student Zainab Taymuree’s Baccalaureate speech

Following is the prepared text of the 2016 Baccalaureate student reflection by Zainab Taymuree, a senior majoring in African and African American studies.

Senior Zainab Taymuree delivers the student reflection.

Senior Zainab Taymuree delivers the student reflection. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim. In the name of God, the Merciful, the Gracious.

Assalamu’alaikum. Peace be with you.

It is an honor to join you for Baccalaureate during the month of Ramadan, a chance for all of us to reflect on the spiritual journeys of education.

Class of 2016, welcome!

Riding my bike through this Quad on my way to class, I think often of my grandmother, one of the first in her high school to ride a bike. I see her cruising through the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan. Mamanee would cycle past Pamir Cinema, over the Kabul River bridge, ahead of Serena Hotel to arrive at Zarghona High School, just two and half miles from her home. I see the both of us at 22 – two young women on wheels, focused on a destination.

“Our important moments came from those times of doubt, the times of uncertainty. … We made these moments into powerful destinations for ourselves and our communities.”

—Graduating senior Zainab Taymuree

Turns out that my grandmother was better on the bike than I am.

My first week on the Farm, freshman year, I had a bike accident. As a cast clamped down on the length of my fractured arm, I thought: That’s it, I messed up my first quarter of Stanford. My eager plans to attend dozens of student group meetings and to drop in on every interesting class offered were all out the window. But in the following months, the people who held my plate, tied back my hair, saved me a spot in class, welcomed me in meetings, left me with my clearest memories of Stanford – in those moments after an unexpected stumble.

Dear classmates, I have admired you in action as cutting-edge researchers, as confident scholars, as dedicated athletes. I have seen you in your quiet ways be the best of planners. But what I have learned from you, Class of 2016, is how you have wrestled with your uncertainties, confronted your doubts, questioned your destinations.

You have taught me, from the late night snack study breaks and impromptu a cappella concerts, to your marches and your vigils and your protests, that the unscripted Stanford moments stand in sharp relief when the routines of this campus have long blurred together. And what others have dismissed as aberration, you have embraced as new ways of thinking, doing, being. And in these times, we have realized that our destinations, as individuals and as institutions, are constantly changing.

Our important moments came from those times of doubt, the times of uncertainty, the frustrations, the fractures in our routines. From tenures denied to survivors silenced – moments we just could not have planned. Let us take this time to reflect on how we made these moments into powerful destinations for ourselves and our communities.

You know, every time I hop on my bike now, I say a prayer. With a line from the Qur’an: “My Sustainer, cause me to reach a destination blessed by You, for You are the best to show us how to reach our true destination!” (23:29). For me, this is different than asking for a specific outcome; it’s more about the reaching. And over time I realized that the destinations I planned for and prayed for were limited to what I thought was possible. It takes courage to leave the transformative vision open ended for something bigger than ourselves. It takes courage to act despite fear.

I reflect, humbled, as I join you here, family, friends, classmates, professors, that today all of our distinct journeys, including my grandmother’s and mine, converge here at Stanford University, as we fashion our new, powerful destinations.