Speech by University Medalist Fadia Rafeedie
you, that was way too generous, Chancellor Berdahl. It makes
me sound a lot better than I am.
uh, you know I just feel... I had a speech and it's right here.
It took me so long to draft it and I kept re-drafting it, and
this morning I changed it again, but I'm just going to put it
to the side and I'm going to talk from my heart because what
I witnessed here today, I have mixed feelings about.
don't know why I'm up here articulating the viewpoints of a
lot of my comrades out there who were arrested, and not them.
It's not because I got straight A's or maybe it is. Maybe that's
the way the power structure works, but I'm very fortunate to
be able to give them a voice. I think that's what I'm going
to do, so if you give me your attention, I'd really appreciate
was hoping to speak before Secretary Albright, but that was
also a reflection of the power structure, I think, to sort of
change things around and make it difficult for people who are
ready to articulate their voice in ways they don't usually get
a chance to.
I'm going to improvise, and I'm going to mention some things
that she didn't mention at all in her speech but which most
of the protesters were actually talking about. You know, I think
it's really easy for us to feel sorry for her, and I was looking
at my grandmothers who are actually in the audience - my grandmother
and her sister - who weren't really happy with all the protesters,
and I think they thought that wasn't really respectful of them,
and a lot of you didn't, I don't think, because you came to
hear [Secretary Albright] speak.
I think what the protesters did was not embarrass our university.
I think they dignified it.
Secretary Albright didn't even mention Iraq, and that's what
they were here to listen to. And I think sometimes NOT saying
things - not mentioning things - is actually lying about them.
what I was going to tell her while she was sitting on the stage
with me, I was going to remind her and I was going to remind
you that four years ago from this Friday when we were freshmen,
I heard her on 60 Minutes talking to a reporter who had just
returned from Iraq.
reporter was describing that a million children were dying [died]
due to the sanctions that this country was imposing on the people
of Iraq. And she told her, listen, "that's more... children
than have died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Do you think the price
is worth it?" [Albright] looked into the camera and she said,
"the price is worth it."
I was going to tell her, "do you really think the price is worth
it??!" Since that time, 3 times that number of people have died
mean, we're about 5,000 here today. Next month by the time we
graduate, that's as many people who are going to die in Iraq
because of the sanctions. This is what House Minority Whip David
Boniors calls 'infanticide masquerading as policy.'
I don't want to make the mood somber here because this is our
commencement, but commencement means beginning, and I think
it's important for us to begin where civilization itself began,
and where it's now being destroyed.
me talk to you a little bit more about the sanctions, because
I think it's very important. Now, I'm a Palestinian, I would
really love to talk about the struggle for the liberation of
my country, and to talk about a whole bunch of other things
and I see some people maybe rolling their eyes, and other people
nodding. These are controversial issues, but I need to speak
about Iraq because I think what's happening there is a genocide.
It's another holocaust.
I'm a history major, and sometimes I look back at history and
I see things like the slave trade, the Holocaust, you know,
I see, I see people dropping atomic bombs and not thinking what
the ramifications are, and I don't want us to think about Iraq
that way. It's already a little too late because 2.5 million
people have died and yet these sanctions continue.
the last 10 years, you wouldn't imagine the kinds of things
that aren't being let into this country: heart machines, lung
machines, needles, infrastructural parts to build the economy.
Even cancer patients, sometimes some of the medicine will be
let in, but not ALL of the medicine.
very strategic what's let in at what time, because what it does
is it prolongs life, but it doesn't save it.
Iraq, they clean the hospital floors with gasoline because detergent
isn't even allowed in because of the sanctions.
are all United States policies.
Secretary Albright - I have no conflict with her as an individual...
I don't happen to respect her, but she belongs to a larger power
structure. She's a symbol.
when the protesters are protesting, it's not because they want
to pick a fight with the woman who many of you happen to love.
fact, she was... she was introduced as the 'greatest woman of
our times.' Now see, to me that's an insult. This woman is doing
allowing innocent people to suffer and to die.
used to be the country in the Arab World that had the best medical
services and social services for its people, and now look at
it. It's, it's being obliterated.
a lot of times you might hear it's because of Saddam Hussein
and I'd like to talk a little bit about that. He's a brutal
dictator - I agree with her, and I agree with many of you. But
again, I'm a history major, and history means origins. It means
beginnings. We need to see who's responsible for how strong
Saddam Hussein has gotten.
he was gassing the Kurds, he was gassing them using chemical
weapons that were manufactured in Rochester, New York.
when he was fighting a long and protracted war with Iran, where
1 million people died, it was the CIA that was funding him.
It was U.S. policy that built this dictator. When they didn't
need him, they started imposing sanctions on his people. Sanctions
- or any kind of policy - should be directed at people's governments,
not at the people.
cancer rate in Iraq has risen by over 70 percent since the Gulf
War. The children who are dying from these malicious cancers
and diseases, they weren't born when the Gulf War happened.
reason that the cancer rate is so high is because every other
day our country is bombing Iraq still. We're still at war with
them. They have no nuclear capabilities. In fact, just last
week, the United Nations inspectors found [again] that Iraq
has no nuclear capabilities and yet we are bombing them every
other day with depleted uranium. And what this does is it releases
a gas that the people breathe. It's making them ill, and they're
dying and they don't have medicine.
saw some of my friends, even, being arrested here today. One
of them was Lillian. Her aunt made a documentary about this
depleted uranium, and it showed that it's being mined by Native
American populations in the United States. They're getting sick.
Their children are getting sick. And that depleted uranium is
going from here, to our military, to Iraq, and it's decimating
populations. This is a big deal.
I'm embarrassed that I don't even get to talk about Colombia,
because I saw a few signs about that, too. And my colleague
here, Darren Noy, who's also a Finalist, is very interested
in these issues. We don't stand alone. I'm on stage with allies,
I'm looking out at allies, we need allies, my allies have been
in general, I mean, I'm speaking to a crowd that gave a standing
ovation to the woman who typifies everything against which I
stand, and I'm still telling you this because I think it's important
I think, that if I achieve nothing else, if this makes you think
a little bit about Iraq, think a little bit about US foreign
policy, I've succeeded.
don't want to take too much of your time, but I want to end
my speech with a slogan that hangs over my bed in Arabic. It
says, "La tastaw Hishu tareeq el-Haq, min qilit es-sa'ireen
fihi" and that translates into, "Fear not the path of truth
for the lack of people walking on it." I think our future is
going to be the future of truth, and we're going to walk on
that path, and we're going to fill it with travelers.
you very much."
Secretary of State addresses Class of 2000
Albright heads a distinguished list of commencement speakers
as UC Berkeley's Class of 2000 graduates
Berkeley's top graduating senior is driven by thirst for knowledge,
good books and a commitment to others