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Khadeeja Miandara

Bachelor of Arts, Literary Studies

Good morning all. My name is Khadeeja Miandara, and I am graduating with a degree in literary studies today. I am so honored to address the class of 2017 at our commencement ceremony. Before I proceed, I wanted to extend my humble thanks to President Benson, Dean Kratz and Dean Novak for leading our schools with wisdom and grace. I also wanted to thank every faculty member present today. I’m joking, mostly, but in all sincerity, thank you professors. You are the heart of this institution, pumping lifeblood into our tired, Red Bull-addled minds, passing on your precious knowledge. To the staff who make every event at UTD so memorable, thank you. We appreciate you so much. And finally, to the wonderful family, friends and mentors who have supported us, no words can express our gratitude. I want to shout out to my beautiful mother, who raised me to pursue my dreams without fear or doubt. You were my first teacher, and I am probably your worst, oldest student. Love you.  

The last four years have been tumultuous, exhilarating, terrifying — and that’s just when we tried to find green-lot parking before our 10 am Monday class. Today, as we all prepare to bid a sort of farewell to a place we love, I think it’s best that we look to the past. Introspection and reflection are natural responses to the conclusion of a journey we have all taken together.

I wanted to talk about something that’s especially poignant given the current climate in our country.

My experience as a Comet did not begin in the Fall of 2013, when I formally began my undergraduate education here. It began 30 years ago, in 1983, when my father emigrated from Pakistan to the United States, specifically Dallas. He enrolled at UTD to earn certain required credits, which he needed before he could transfer to graduate school. His time at this University was brief, but it feels serendipitous to me that I would attend UTD, his short-lived alma mater.

"We do not measure our legacy from awards, or accolades gained. Instead, we put pen to paper and add our notes to the great American symphony. "

You see, my father passed away when I was 8 years old. He missed out on all the major milestones of my life, but I don’t feel his absence today. Instead, I am aware that this campus was once his campus. This was the place where he took his first step on the path toward achieving his American dream.

This simple story matters because it represents a grander, more universal story. It’s the story of many families here today, whose parents or grandparents immigrated to the U.S. less than 40 years ago. It’s the story of the graduates awaiting their diplomas anxiously in their stiff black robes, some of you who traveled across oceans to study here. It’s the story of future Comets who have yet to apply for college, who reside in countries hundreds and thousands of miles away.

My father’s time at UT Dallas as an international student matters because it represents this nation’s principles of welcome, and it highlights the constant inclusiveness of this campus. Whether you were born in Dallas, Delhi or Dubai, this campus is home. No outside entity can take that away from us. No outside group can instill fear in us. We are UT Dallas Comets, and we know the power of being stronger, together.

I am so incredibly proud to call myself a UT Dallas graduate after today. I’m proud of the fact that our campus has been, and always will be, a bastion of progress and acceptance. The different communities on campus enrich UT Dallas, and prove that diversity is the key to the ultimate college experience.

So what do we carry away with us as we leave UTD one last time? I, like many people, became a Hamilton fanatic sometime in my junior year. There’s a line from “The World Was Wide Enough” that makes me weep every time I listen to it. It resonates with everyone, whether they are American by birth, by choice or under duress. Hamilton says that legacy is:

“…planting seeds in a garden you never get to see
I wrote some notes at the beginning of a song someone will sing for me
America, you great unfinished symphony, you sent for me.”

We do not measure our legacy from awards, or accolades gained. Instead, we put pen to paper and add our notes to the great American symphony. Instead, we plant seeds of growth where others would plant seeds of hate. Instead, we seek to make progress on a final product we may never see. Generations to come will benefit from our efforts.

It’s like the construction here on campus. We might not see all the wonderful progress that is coming here at UT Dallas, but we contributed to it. We helped lay the foundation for it, brick by brick, and when new structures stand tall, our efforts will support the dreams of new Comets. We carried the batons of knowledge, acceptance and growth for UT Dallas, and now we pass that on to the students of the future. That is our legacy, our privilege and our duty. Thank you all for being part of this celebration, and congratulations once again. Go Comets! We made it! Whoosh!


Khadeeja Miandara graduated with a bachelor’s degree in literary studies and a teacher’s certification in English and language arts for grades 7 through 12.

 

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