Skip to main content
[vc_empty_space height=”30px”]

Sana Azem: Protecting Humanity

Learn English with Sana Azem’s speech. In this powerful speech at the University of Richmond’s 2022 graduation ceremony, Sana Azem shares her experiences growing up in Syria and the importance of seeking truth and understanding beyond surface appearances. Sana, a journalism graduate who conducted research and wrote the stories of Syrian refugee women in her special report, “The Story She Holds,” reminds us of our shared humanity and urges us to use our knowledge to build bridges and protect our compassion towards one another.

Download the Full Transcript and Audio Here!

English Speeches creates these files FREE & downloadable, so you can learn English and improve your vocabulary!

[vc_btn title=”DOWNLOAD HERE” style=”3d” color=”danger” size=”lg” align=”center” button_block=”true” link=”|title:Download%3A%20Angelina%20Jolie”][vc_empty_space height=”30px”]

Sana Azem | Quote

[vc_single_image image=”9970″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”]

“The universe inside you and beyond yourselves awaits your discovery.” Sana Azem


Host: It’s a tradition at Richmond to have a graduating senior speak on behalf of our graduates. We are proud to welcome Sana Azem as speaker for the class of 2022. Sana is from Damascus, Syria. She’s graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism with a minor in film studies. While at Richmond, Sana was a writer for the university newspaper, The Collegian, and a member of the Muslim Student Association and a member of UR’s filmmaker society.

As part of her research as a journalism student, Sana spoke with and wrote the stories of Syrian women who took part in the Syrian uprising. She spoke with mothers, sisters, and daughters of political prisoners and victims of forced disappearance and wrote the stories of women who’ve been imprisoned in Syria.

She shared these stories just a few weeks ago in an impressive and moving visual presentation and clearly written work titled, The Story She Holds. As an aspiring journalist after graduation, she hopes to write and document the stories of people that need to be heard. Congratulations and welcome Sana.

Sana Azem: It was a quiet summer night, the day I had a final glance of my home city, Damascus, Syria. The warm night breeze blew gently in my face as I gazed silently at its glow from the top of Qasiyoun Mountain. The city looked beautiful and in that moment I wondered if sometimes distance is better when chaos seems serene.

You see, beneath my city’s lights, beyond Syria’s mountains and rivers, there was a system designed to steal from us, the people of my country, everything that made us human. Growing up in Syria, I learned that the walls of my home have ears, that anything I say will be heard by the secret police. As I was glancing at the lights of my city from the top of Qasiyoun Mountain that night, I realized one thing.

Not everything is always as it seems. I knew that the glimmering lights from the top of the mountain did not depict the life of the people on the ground. Only a few months before the night of my departure, I had been sitting with my then seven-year-old sister in the back of the car with my arms wrapped around her as the sounds of bombardment filled the air.

All I needed was a sky free of chaos. All I wanted was a place in which I could hide. At the entrance of the school I had been attending, it became normal to see a tank and soldiers passing by, and their presence signified everything but to keep us safe. The distant lights of the city from the top of the mountain were of houses that at some point had lost a loved one at the hands of an inhumane system of ruling.

You see, it is crazy how much difference distance from something or someone or the lack thereof can make, isn’t it?

The thing is, we will never be able to truly learn about something or fully become knowledgeable of it if we only look at it from a distance. We will never be able to understand the world in which we live if we only scratch the surface. Arriving at UR, we were all uncertain of what lay ahead. Slowly, as we jumped from one class to another, from one conversation to another, doors of possibilities and opportunities opened.

Throughout the four years we were able to discover so much about ourselves and about each other. We learned, explored, and challenged ourselves to better understand who we are and who we will become. Coming in, we were a bit lost, going from one strange building to another. Now, in every corner we engraved a memory, and the place that was once strange became home.

Whatever degree each one of us will be graduating with today, let’s use it to better connect with one another. Let’s use it to build bridges and to knock walls of separation down. Whether it is four years ago or four years from now, we will always be one web. As students of UR, as people of this globe, what happens here next door or thousands of miles away from us is about all of us.

What happens outside our doors in Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine, or elsewhere is about all of us. It’s about our humanity. So above everything, let’s use our knowledge, our explorations, and discoveries to protect our humanity and our compassion towards one another. As author Ina Korn Brown once said, it is one’s duty and obligation to help create a social order in which persons are more important than things, ideas more precious than gadgets, and in which individuals are judged on the basis of their personal worth.

When we worship, pray, or feel compassion. When we enjoy a painting, a sunset, or a sonata. When we think and reason, pursue ideas, seek truth, or read a book. When we protect the weak and the helpless. When we honor the noble and cherish the good. When we cooperate with one another to build a better world, our behavior is worthy of our status as human beings.

Inside each one of us, there is a desire to learn and discover. And the truth is, some discoveries will shock us. Some will shake the ground upon which we walk. Some will change us from within. But the best ones are those that connect us with one another and remind us that at the end of the day, we are all made of stardust.

The best ones are those that teach us to walk in humility. For no matter how far we rise, our knowledge will always be limited. As the Quran states, And

of knowledge, you, mankind, have only been given a little. Class of 2022, congratulations. The universe inside you and beyond yourselves awaits your discovery.

Sana Azem