Petia Goolamallee (’04): Commencement Speech

May 11, 2004
Petia Goolamallee (’04): Commencement Speech

The AUBG Class of 2004 student commencement speaker was Petia Goolamallee from Bulgaria. Read below her speech:

I thought about becoming a senior speaker throughout the whole Spring 2004 semester. I imagined standing in front of the gathered crowd and pronouncing the most remarkable speech of all time, a speech that will surpass everything said before. I imagined it Shakespearian and outstanding, however, when I sat to write it, it turned out to be too hard a thing to easily put in words. What did I have to say to my critically- thinking classmates that they didn’t already know? Could I persuade them it has all been nice, knowing fairly well it was not? I had no answer. At the end of my mental struggles, I decided to tell you a little story instead. This is my vision of things, and, friends of Class 2004, you may not agree with it at all points. My task is just to draw a sketch. The details belong to you.

There was once a little American University in a little Balkan country. Both the country and the university were small but proud. Every year, the latter completed the training process of around a hundred kids, and accepted another hundred.

The same procedure took place in the year 2000. There they were, the newly – accepted, feeling the luckiest people around, wearing white T-shirts with green letters: AUBG CLASS OF 2004. Back then, it seemed like this 2004 was as distant in time as a STAR TREK episode. Who among these kids knew that four years are just four marvelous springs and 40 courses away? No one was preoccupied thinking about it anyway.

Time passed and the kids changed. The school was fun at times, but most of the time it was more strict and demanding than a parent. It taught them and they learned.

To be different.
To wear funny clothes and not to be embarrassed by that.
To complain, and, if necessary, to rebel.
To speak their minds.
To demand and give in return. To look for love and not to be desperate if they can’t always find it.
To see the world and make the world see them.

There were sad winters and reviving springs. There were wild and unforgettable nights and unbelievably fresh mornings. The kids discovered places in the little town together and left their hearts there. They also found out how demanding a school can be and how challenging a duty can get. They learned that duties are to be observed and deadlines – are to be met, regardless of your mood. The everyday battles they fought often ended up in disappointment, but even more often were crowned with victories and it was there, in this little proud university that the kids discovered the sweetness of recognition and respect.

They cried a lot. And they laughed a lot, too. They traveled together and shared their rooms, clothes, food, and lives. Their community was comprised of people with different backgrounds, mental sets and ideas, but after a while, strangely enough, somehow their hearts started beating in the same rhythm. Maybe because they were all kids of the new millennium, kids entering adulthood, whose responsibility was to build a bridge between two eras – both globally and locally. Whatever the reasons for that were, every holiday their parents welcomed home not the children they had previously sent to school, but rather members of a new society with an extraordinary motto – United, Yet Unique. Their differences were reconciled in the name of the hopefully better world they had to create together.

…. And this is how four years passed. Not like sand through their fingers, but rather like soil that was dug in order to build a house. The same, yet changed people have now gathered in the city- square for a final celebration. They all wear serious black gowns- as serious as the life that will start for them tomorrow. They look contented, somewhat proud, and a bit scared. They know that life outside the cool walls of the university will force them to run at full speed and it will not care about who they are. There will be hardships, social standards, and numerous requirements. There will be choices for them to make, and they will not necessarily be the right ones. They will have to work hard, wait patiently and prove to the world it is worth acknowledging an AUBG-er. Because his natural state is better. He has learned that life is but a big self-service restaurant, so he will get his own plate and cut his piece of the Big Pie.

The end of the story is not here, on this square, because more than a hundred young people just got their tickets for the next great journey. They are carrying their suitcases full of hopes, memories, and friendships and their train is waiting around the corner. Let us not keep them long.

Have a nice trip, my friends, Class of 2004!