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Valedictory address

05/20/96
Given by Kemal Demirciler


Photo by Irene Fertik
"President Sample, distinguished guests, members of the Class of 1996, ladies and gentlemen:

Graduation time is thrilling and inspiring for a USC student. It is the climax of the college education. Generally speaking, graduation is considered the end of the college years, the grand finale of college. Yet, interestingly enough, today is not observed as completion time, but rather: commencement. The obvious question is then " what are we commencing?"

We are commencing to apply our USC acquired skills to whatever problems lie in front of us. Certainly, USC has not supplied us with ready-made cures for the ailments of a sick world. Instead, it has provided us with a substantial groundwork to construct our own theories and solutions to better the world we live in.

I started my undergraduate education here at USC in 1992, as most of us did. But, as President Sample has noted, I was supposed to start back in 1985, right after I had graduated from my high school in Northern Cyprus, part of a small island in the Mediterranean. I had to postpone my undergraduate education until 1992 due to a sea accident which resulted in my quadriplegia.

Making the decision to resume my education after seven years had not been an easy one. I owe it to my parents and sister, without the support and encouragement of whom I would not have been able to make this important decision. Today, I truly see the importance of that decision. As long as one is able to continue to educate oneself with whatever means necessary, there should not be an excuse to stay away from education.

It is my strong belief that, students from many ethnic backgrounds, gathered under the hat of this institution, provided an invaluable opportunity for each of us to get to know and understand each other. It is a place where scholars of diverse nationalities and cultures meet and freely exchange information and ideas. It is this sort of interaction that will reduce the animosities and generate trust and respect among the peoples of the world. In this respect, USC did its part by bringing us - the representatives of different cultures - together. Now that we are graduating, it is one of our prime duties to act as ambassadors in promoting goodwill, understanding and peace.

This is the day, "we are starting to reap what we have sown" in the past four years. And we are marking this start with this ceremony, together with our teachers and families - each one of them has a contribution in what we are today. Thus, today is equally exciting and meaningful to them as it is to us. I am sure we make their efforts worthwhile by being part of this graduation ceremony. They deserve to be happy and proud.

There is someone that I wish was here among us today. That person is my father. He passed away a couple of years ago as a result of a brain tumor. It is beyond my imagination how happy and proud he would have been to listen to me giving this speech. He was an engineer, and an educationist who valued hard work and success greatly. He is the founder of the first university in Northern Cyprus. This state university (founded in 1979), where the medium of instruction is in English, gave the opportunity of college education to those students who could not afford to study abroad. Now it has 450 faculty and over 7,000 students from 40 different countries. Following my father's vision, there are now four other universities of smaller scale. Today, the university-sector contribution to Northern Cyprus' economy is 10 percent. He left behind a name for me and for my family to be proud of carrying on.

I sometimes ask myself, if I were given the choice to live a healthy, happy 100 years but accomplish nothing worthwhile, or to live 60 years and make a difference in this world, which would I choose? I would choose the latter. I know it is rather difficult to make such a decision on a beautiful, spring day like this, but if we think deeply enough, I am sure most of us will go for the latter.

So although in my heart I feel the voidness of not having my father here with us, I equally feel the pride of being the son of a man who had successfully fulfilled the mission of contributing to mankind. I guess the moral of this is, not to be a common man. There are enough of them around. We should choose to be uncommon.

The world's problems are pressing for immediate solutions. And as one unknown author said, it is those "who prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia; it is those who take the calculated risks" and work hard, who will come up with the crucial solutions. USC has given us what it takes to be uncommon. It is just up to us to choose.

My friends, today our formal instruction in the fundamentals ends, and we commence to apply them. Our future is challenging indeed, for in the realm of human beings there is no handy formula or accepted strategy. For this future you have opened to us, USC, we express our deepest gratitude. May our contributions prove worthy of you and of our USC brothers and sisters who have graduated before us and served the world so well."