The Elliott School of International Affairs celebrated the graduating Class of 2022 at its first in-person graduation ceremony since 2019 in the Smith Center Friday.
Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-NY, the keynote speaker at the event, called on graduates to “give back” to their communities using their degrees from the Elliott School as they enter the field of public service. Saad Al-Tami, the student speaker at the ceremony and a candidate for a Master of Arts in International Affairs, said he watched his classmates and professors become friends and mentors throughout his time at GW, and he is now graduating from the Elliott School with a new family.
Meeks said the “optimism and determination” of the Class of 2022 has boosted his own optimism about the United States’ ability to confront major issues like climate change.
“Our government runs on the passions, the visions and the optimism of young people like you,” he said at the ceremony.
Meeks said his parents, who paid his tuition for his law degree at Howard University despite struggling financially, asked him to “pay it forward” when he graduated. He urged the Class of 2022 to do the same.
“Now I’m calling on you, the Class of 2022, to do your jobs, to go out and lead and be the change you wish to see,” Meeks said. “And I say as my mother told me, never forget who you are. Never forget where you came from. Never forget your parents and others who helped you accomplish your goals.”
Al-Tami said graduates have a responsibility to take what they learned during their time at the Elliott School and join the fight for a better future.
“We are the future,” he said. “We are two blocks away from the White House, just across the street from the State Department, just next to the IMF and the World Bank. And we are also a moment away from the change that we wish to see.”
Alyssa Ayres, the dean of the Elliott School, said she was “inspired” by the Class of 2022’s resilience as they endured the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Members of our graduating class gathered here today are not only prepared to tackle the world’s toughest problems, they are eager to take on the challenge,” she said.