Student Speaker Yasmin Younis (COM’18)

Student Speaker Yasmin Younis (COM’18)

October 16, 2019 66 By Stanley Isaacs


I now present Ms. Yasmin Younis,
a senior who will receive her bachelor degree from the College of Communication,
who will speak on behalf of the class of 2018. Ms. Younis. Thank you President Brown. It is an honor to be here today, especially
speaking alongside civil rights icon John Lewis. Mr. Lewis, you are the man. Hello! Ahlan wa Sahlan! Welcome all. Faculty, friends, family, and the class of
2018. And to my Muslim brothers and
sisters: Ramadan Kareem. My name is Yasmin Liwa Younis. I say my name loud and proud from Baghdad
where my parents were born, to Ballis Road, the Midwest street I grew up on, to
Boston University, among the class of 2018, on Nickerson Field. When picking colleges, I knew I wanted to
be at an urban institution that offered opportunities unimaginable elsewhere. However, I didn’t realize I chose the school
which provided me the greatest lesson of all, and so did you: learning to unapologetically
be you. Before attending BU, I would have introduced
myself as “Yasmin I have no middle name Younis”. I made my name more easily digestible because
I was uncomfortable in my own skin, unsure of who I was, who I was meant to be, and who
I would become. When I decided to attend BU, it was right
after I read about BU alum Uzo Aduba’s name reclamation story. She inspired me to make a rule that once I
was at BU, I would no longer refer to myself as “Yazmin”, but as “Yasmin”, because as her
mother said, “if someone could say ‘Tchaikovsky’, they sure as hell could say ‘Yasmin’.” Being in a diverse environment like BU, I
knew that this was my one shot to learn to accept myself and to become the Yasmin Lewa
Younis my parents believed I could be. From as early as I could remember, I wanted
to change my name. I hated it, almost as much as I hated being Iraqi. Almost as much as I hated my curly hair, dark
eyes, and tan skin, but not as much as what I truly hated: myself. My struggle toward self-acceptance was a long,
tumultuous journey beginning from the moment my parents emigrated to this country respectively. My parents left their homeland to pursue better
lives for themselves, and for their future family. And to this day, my parents never returned
to Iraq. But my parents instilled a piece of Iraq within
both my brother and I. Through our names. What better way for me to be me than by reclaiming
my name? My first name, Yasmin, is a flower in Arabic. My middle name, Lewa, is my father’s name,
a tradition in Iraqi culture. My last name, Younis, is the name of the prophet
Younis, a beloved prophet in my religion, Islam. I always had a knack for writing, as it was
my way to express myself. But at BU, I turned self-expression into self-sufficiency
by transforming my creative outlet into an employable field of study. Although my journey was unique to me, BU threw
so many opportunities to grow, resources to use, and questions to ask ourselves to
uncover who we truly are. These opportunities gave us the skills to
enter the workforce or graduate school. These resources gave us the knowledge to take
the next step in our careers, and these questions allowed us to know who we are, and to push
ourselves to be the best versions we can be. Like many of you, I’m unsure of where I’ll be. But BU instilled a measurable confidence in
me and us, the class of 2018, that I know we will succeed no matter where the beginning
of our respective post-undergraduate chapters take us. I owe this newfound confidence in all of us
to BU because of how BU gave it to us. Like everyone on this field,
I really struggled here. However, there is so much beauty in this struggle,
but more importantly, overcoming the struggle. Whether it be struggling to adjust to our
first Bostonian winter during the record-breaking 2015 Boston blizzard, to miserably attempting
to pass CHEM101, to our first college heartbreaks, to getting rejected from our top internship
or job opportunity, and everything in between, our time at BU was not easy. But what good came from anything easy? Without the blizzard, we wouldn’t have stories
to tell about epic snowball fights with our friends on Comm Ave. or the Esplanade. Without hard or tough classes, we wouldn’t
have those late night Mugar adventures or crazy all-nighters to nostalgically look back on. Without our heartbreaks, we wouldn’t have
leaned on our support systems, helping us realize we don’t need a partner to feel whole,
so long as we have an incredible group of friends. Without getting rejections, we wouldn’t have
had opportunities like an unexpected summer abroad, or realizing what we thought was our
dream job actually wasn’t our dream all along. Each of these struggles has
one common denominator: Us. Every struggle we overcame added to our story. It helped us figuratively reclaim our names
like my struggles pushed me to literally reclaim mine. To the BU community, to our friends, and to
our families: thank you for helping us become the Yasmin Lewa Younises our mamas and babas, umis and ubous, omas and ubas, and moms and dads believed we could be. To the class of 2018, let’s reflect on our
journey and how we’ve become the people we are at this very moment. But most importantly, I ask that you uncover
what it is that led you to unapologetically be you. Embrace it, and never, ever let it go. And finally, black lives matter, and free
Palestine.