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Speech by Hannah Albaseer at UC-Berkeley Admissions Office Occupation

Hi, my name is Hannah Albaseer and I was one of many of the minorities that applied to UC Berkeley and was denied.

One of the greatest basketball players once said, “I can accept failure–everyone fails. But I won’t accept not trying.” And turning my back with my head hung over the denied letter from UC Berkeley is a sign of defeat. And I have survived more than enough hardships in the seventeen years that I’ve been alive to let this be the one thing that I cannot overcome.

I come from a culture and family background where education is not a necessity in a woman’s life, where many women are voiceless because they are uneducated.

I don’t want to be a silenced voice; I want my voice to be alive. I want to speak for the millions who aren’t able to.

I think I deserve to be here. I went from making appointments and tending to my mom’s needs while being sick with a number of illnesses at age eleven to being age fourteen and taking care of a newborn child all on my own. I want to become educated to change lives. For others, not just for myself. If I get accepted, I will be going to school for my generation and myself so that they may follow in my lead.

I have faced threats of being pulled out of school. I have even faced the possibility of not being able to attend school, even now in the twenty-first century.

With the help of my community, I am able to stand here today and have the chance to speak for change, a chance to get into the school I dream of going to.  While other students worry about roommates, cars, parties, and friends, I’ll be lucky if I’m even able to find a college near home that will accept me since I am not able to go far.

From the start of freshman year, I’ve always maintained satisfactory grades and have achieved beyond my teachers’ expectations, and knowing that one day I would be in a classroom at UC Berkeley kept me encouraged.

The highest education level my dad has is less than a high school diploma and my mother has never set foot on a school campus. If my rejection is repealed, I will be the first of seven children in my family to go to college. The first and the example of a role model to a new generation: a new generation of educated middle eastern women.

If change doesn’t happen, nothing changes. Having to balance my culture, family, religion, and school, I’m surprised I can still breathe at the end of the day. Half the people I know wouldn’t survive an hour in my shoes.

I’ve been through more than what I show, so it’s only right that I fight this obstacle to the end knowing that I gave everything I possibly could.

Thomas Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” And I have a feeling that I’m as close to this victory than I’ll ever be.

Thank you.

– Speech by Hannah Albaseer, Yemeni-American and senior at Berkeley High School, at the May 11, 2012 occupation of UC-Berkeley’s admissions office to double underrepresented minority student enrollment

 

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