Anastassiya delivered this speech at her graduation ceremony at Lehigh University. She will now pursue a PhD degree in International Studies. She was the Youth Representative for Augustinians International at the United Nations during 2016-2017.
- I am very honored to address you today. In the spirit of the Baccalaureate, I would like to share with you how my religious tradition had illuminated my academic pursuits. I would like to acknowledge that my speech is heavily inspired by the writings of my mentor, Augustinian friar Fr. Robert Dueweke, whom I highly admire. During my undergraduate studies of international relations, I learned about conflicts that permeate our world. On a frequent basis we encounter news about horrific tragedies. Before I became Catholic my first year at Lehigh, I was often tempted to perceive the violence I heard about as distant and remote from my own life. However, my worldview has changed after I started perceiving humanity through the Christian notion of the “body of Christ”. If we imagine a planetary human body that extends above humanity, we will see that the violence in any part of the world could be compared to a wound which ultimately leads to a weakening of the whole person. Fr. Dueweke challenged me to look at the Cross, a Christian symbol of violence, as a question mark: what will my response to the violence be? I want to encourage all of us to respond to it with the following principle of Catholic social justice: See – Judge – Act. A Jesuit philosopher Bernard Lonergan further provides us with advice on how to judge and act: “Be attentive, be intelligent, be reasonable, be responsible, be in love”. These ideas helped me to respond to the discouragement I would feel in the face of the global issues, and motivated me to persevere in actions addressing them, despite of how helpless I felt at the moment. As a result, I was able to contribute to improving the wellbeing of others around me, ultimately leading to the overall betterment of the communities I consider myself a part of, both local and global. I strongly believe that if equipped with the notion of care for each other and the resolve to be attentive and in love, each one of us is able to rise above tragedy and violence and take action that brings about the peace and joy that all of us long for. In closing, I would like to say that I am grateful to Lehigh for providing me with an opportunity to learn how to serve both the Lehigh community and the global one fearlessly through love. Thank you!