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Honoring Our 2020 Graduates – Here are the Graduation Speeches They Wanted to Give

Posted on May 27, 2020
Guest Contributor


Editor's Note: We are celebrating 2020 graduates at Haute Hijab! Graduates, we know this was not the senior/last year of school/college you anticipated, and we are so proud of everything you've accomplished and how you've dealt with school shutdowns in light of the COVID-19 global pandemic. 

We put a call out for 2020 grads to submit to us the graduation speech they would give if they had the chance. Here are three we are honored to share with you!

Safiya Khan

Senior year closed its doors before our feet even got out. Our books still in our lockers, our hearts still in its walls, hundreds of moments incomplete. No matter how many times every day we'd say, "I can't wait to go home," there was always the excitement of senior nights, prom, senior field trips and of course – graduation.

For so many of us, the one thing pushing us through high school was the anticipation of finally walking across that stage and being handed our diploma. Even though it may still happen in a few months or a year, it won't be the same. No last day of school, no last senior night, no last pep rally.

We might not get these lasts, but let's let this become the last time we take something so expected for granted; the last time we say, "Of course that'll happen. It always does." Let this be the last time we're so focused on making it to the other side that we forget about the days in between; the last time we forget to enjoy the moments we have because we expect to have dozens more.

All most of us seniors want is one more day at school. One more day to say goodbye to everyone, to thank our teachers and to walk through those halls one last time still a student. We won’t get that, but at the end of the day, that’s life. It's something we can't change, but we can change what our next four years look like, what our next four days look like, what our next four minutes will look like. After all, what we think is what we become. What we focus on becomes our reality.

Imagine you're watching a movie with someone narrating every moment. If their voice is optimistic and content, the movie leaves you feeling nostalgic, beneficial and happy. If their voice is frustrated, pessimistic and stressed, the movie leaves you feeling anxious, sad, restricted. In this part of our movies, let's focus on what helps us move forward and not turn around. Let's focus on making these next four seconds, weeks and months the best we've ever had. Not because they are, but because we want them to be.

We, the class of 2020, have been forced to learn something most people don't fully realize until they're much older – everything you've been working towards could be gone in a second. So let's enjoy the time we have. Let's savor the firsts that could also be our lasts, because no one gets the promise of tomorrow. Class of 2020, this isn't the end of our lasts. This is just the beginning.

Safiya Khan graduated from Dominion High School in Virginia. She will attend George Mason University to study government and international politics. Find her on Instagram @saf.iya1.


Asna Tabassum

This definitely wasn’t how I dreamed our graduation celebrations would be. But then again, there have been countless times in our past few years as students where the unexpected happened. There were missed opportunities, mistakes and difficulties that we all faced at one point, and they were all unexpected.

Just like with each of the trying times of student life, there is a carefully embedded lesson that comes with graduating  or simply just being in quarantine. Maybe it’s realizing the importance of family ties, our friendships, or self-care. Regardless of what it may be, there’s a personalized lesson somewhere in here that is ours to find.

To me, this prospect of a deeper meaning is pretty reassuring. We might graduate in a non-traditional way after years and years of learning, but perhaps these are the moments that we will learn from most. In fact, there’s a comforting hadith from the Prophet Muhammad (saw) about this: What has reached you was never meant to miss you, and what has missed you was never meant to reach you.

Now, graduation has reached us. Although we may not be walking together, we have at least found ways to celebrate despite the odds  and sometimes in a sweeter ways than we could have ever imagined. Parades of honking cars, lines for free Krispy Kreme donuts and masked senior pictures have built a new place in our hearts. We have worked incredibly hard these past few years, and that is what makes these new traditions special.

Somehow, while it is far from what we dreamed of, our 2020 graduation is a memorable milestone in more ways than one.

Asna Tabassum is graduating as a valedictorian from Ruben S. Ayala High School in Southern California. She will be attending the University of Southern California as a biomedical engineering major on the premedical track. Find her on Instagram @asna.tabassum



Assalam-o-Alaikum! I am honored to brainstorm and write this speech on Eid. I gave myself an end-of-the-day deadline and still have 15 minutes left. Deadlines are the only constant in my education journey. I have always been mindful of deadlines and like most students, have dreaded them.

I realize how the experience of higher education and networking with talented leaders change a person. I faced my greatest fears during my Masters program, including continuing to hike in extreme cold just when I wanted to give up, joining hip-hop club (Dancing isn’t necessarily the most halal thing to do!), taking Chinese, boxing and skiing classes, submitting assignments seconds before deadlines and fighting and making-up with friends for the first time in my life.

I believe change is a driver of success and pushes one to reach their potential. Everything at Schwarzman College was dynamic, not just because it’s a program based in China’s top university, but also because the Schwarzman Scholars come from all backgrounds and have diverse interests. I was put in this constantly challenging petri dish and had to live and interact with those who had worldviews, desires, thought processes and actions different from mine.

As a Pakistani Muslim girl who completed her undergrad degree in Pakistan, I enjoyed the privileges that came with such an international program  it's resources, opportunities and most of all. it's people. I learn the most from people in action. Different cultures, religions and perspectives bring interesting interactions and expand your horizon like I imagine travel does. I had to work hard for the assignments that some easily passed, like writing 15-page essays on countries I knew nothing, and I procrastinated to my heart's content but ended up submitting thinking, done is better than perfect.

I basically learned that all maxims are universal truths! Lol, or are they? I learned what I knew before, but I truly learned the same old things better again. For example, this was the first time I was able to understand myself better, realize what kind of travel I like, what my socioeconomic status is, how unfair the world is and how different people with the same faith can be in their practice.

Without going into details, I’m here to tell you that university is just preparation for the uncertain future, and class of 2020 definitely stepped into the unknown. Coronavirus disrupted our winter vacation in Beijing, and we continued to see how the virus developed. When we voiced our problems, we felt like canaries in a coal mine. But then we noticed the behavior of people change, and how different cultures and countries behaved differently during COVID: Masks and social distancing were acceptable and encouraged.

Half of the program year then shifted to online education, and we learned together dealing with the crisis of our time. As I graduate during the COVID crisis, I have learned one important lesson  that change is inevitable. How you deal with change depends on you, your personality, background, thoughts and values. I want you all to believe in yourselves as we move through these uncertain periods of our lives, because we will emerge successful out of this. But what we need to be looking ahead at is what the next change will look like and then prepare ourselves for the known and the unknown.

Graduates, Happy 2020!!

And no, we can’t cancel a whole year, so let’s just deal with it!

Abiha graduated with her Masters in Global Affairs as a Schwarzman Scholar from Tsinghua University in China She is applying for jobs and considering launching her own business.