Remarks by Sohail Razzaq at 2009 Baccalaureate

Following is the text of the address by graduating student Sohail Razzaq, as prepared for delivery at the Stanford Baccalaureate Celebration on June 13, 2009

L.A. Cicero Sohail Razzaq

Sohail Razzaq

Assalamoalaikum Warehmatullah; may God's peace and blessings be upon you. Graduates of the Class of 2009, as I stand before you today, I'm overcome with nostalgia, gratitude and excitement. I'm reminiscent of my journey through Stanford's rich tradition of religious diversity. Over the past four years, I've experienced the soothing prayer of a Catholic Rosary, the peaceful introspection of Buddhist meditation and the delightful celebration of Holi, the Hindu festival of colors. I'm grateful to my Jewish friends for involving me in their tradition of breaking bread on the Shabbat and my Baha'i classmates for telling me about the inspirational life and works for Abdul Baha. My interaction with different faiths has allowed me to develop relationships of trust, respect and understanding, and at the same time better understand my own faith—Islam. I've come to see the value of religious pluralism prescribed in the Quran as God speaks to us: "Oh mankind, I have made you into diverse nations and tribes so that you may come to know each other. Verily, the most honored of you in the sight of God is he who is the most righteous."

While I'm extremely proud of my last four years at Stanford, I feel a huge sense of responsibility as I enter the world beyond our beautiful campus, a world plagued by poverty, hunger, inequality, disease, illiteracy and injustice. However, I have reasons to be optimistic because the people of faith in our community have inspired me through their words and their actions; they've shown me that the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. They have given me hope by telling me the stories of young role models who changed the world for the better. Martin Luther King, at the age of 26, led the bus boycott in Montgomery and completely changed the course of history by eliminating racial inequality in America. Maybe we have a Martin Luther King amongst us today; someone who will address the economic inequality that plagues our planet; someone who will devote his life to helping the forgotten billion people surviving on less than a dollar a day. Gandhi was only 24 when he planted the seeds for the movement against apartheid in South Africa. I have faith that we have a visionary like Gandhi amongst us today; someone who will launch a global movement to provide healthcare to the underprivileged, someone who can prevent the deaths of 4 million children who lose their lives every year to curable diseases.

If you still have doubts about your ability to change the world around you, let me tell you the story of the three stonemasons. During the Middle Ages, a man approached three hardworking stonemasons and asked them what they were doing. The first one grumbled, "I'm cutting stone." The second one responded with a deep sigh, "I'm building a wall." The third one replied with a radiant smile. "I am building a beautiful cathedral that will glorify God for centuries to come." Our lives may be limited, but our dreams don't have to be. Our resources may be finite, but our impact doesn't have to be. Class of 2009, I leave you with a question: "Do you have what it takes to be the change you wish to see in the world around you?" Congratulations, good luck and Godspeed!