Yasmin Younis: Unapologetically Be You Speech at Boston (Transcript)

Yasmin Younis – Full TRANSCRIPT: 

Thank you President Brown.

It’s 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 this was my one shot to learn to
accept myself and to become the Yasmin Liwa 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.

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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, Liwa, 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.

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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.

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