Sasha Sleiman is pursuing her Master’s Degree in International Policy Studies with a concentration in Conflict Resolution. Her specific interests lie in a variety of issues related to gender and conflict including women’s role in conflict, conflict resolution, post-war reconstruction and peacebuilding; and the role of the United Nations in conflict resolution and peacebuilding. She graduated from Western Washington University in 2009 with a B.A. in Comparative Politics.
When was the last time you asked yourself: ‘why am I here?’ ‘What brought me to MIIS?’ “What truly motivates me?” These are questions that I’ve asked myself over and over again since stepping foot into Monterey and especially over the last semester. We must have a clear understanding of these things at this point…right? Or maybe not? These are huge life questions that don’t have to be answered today but are good to explore constantly throughout different stages in our lives. When it comes down to it, I think really the question that needs to be answered first among this slew of very important life changing questions is ‘what makes us different’? Regardless of the degree you are about to receive from TESOL to MBA to Human Security and Development, I feel like this question will impact how you do your future work and how you see yourself in the context of the greater world around you. For me two themes arise from this question; optimism and the ideal that we are not alone.
When I ask myself what makes me different from someone else optimism first thing I think of. Not because I am so vain to think that no one else around me is an optimist, but rather because this is my default setting and I try to look at everything with an optimistic lens. You may roll your eyes at this or think I am naïve. It is fine. A lot of people do. But let me make this argument, I think we as a generation, as a graduating class, as the newest additions to the MIIS Mafia, need to be optimistic. The global economy continues to be in a downward spiral, people in the workforce we are about to enter are jaded and tired, the world is ridden with conflict and despair. As we face these increasingly insurmountable challenges in our work and personal decisions, it is optimism that will keep us moving forward and fighting for the cause that most motivates.
To give you an idea of where this stems from as my innate, go to perspective, I want to share a little bit about my father as an immigrant from Lebanon. He left the country after fighting in the Lebanese Civil War in the late 70s. After fleeing the civil war to try to make something of himself he moved to the Gulf to work and make a living to help his family back home and met my mom. Since his arrival to the US shortly before I was born, he has done nothing but work hard to make it in this ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ America. Typically, I come up with 101 arguments why this doesn’t work and why this mentality is painful for America-but lets not get political here- but really my dad is that American Dream. This is what inspires me everyday. When my day gets down and I get upset and stressed, this is what provides me with a light at the end of the tunnel, that “I can make it here” attitude my dad brought when he left his homeland. From a young child he always told me, “we made sure you were born here so you can be the President of the United States.” That hope and optimism he had for my future was instilled in me as a child and gives me great pride to this day.
We have so many opportunities in front of us. All of us do. This makes any choice we make extremely difficult, as I am sure all of us in this room looking for jobs, internships, fellowships, what have you, know this better than anyone. These choices and opportunities must be attributed to those who came before us. To our parents, grand parents, great grand parents…well you get it. Our current circumstance is about a world much larger than ourselves. I think when we make our next huge life choice we need to consider how we can be apart of a larger solution and make a positive impact in the world, but maybe not expect to be the only or complete solution. As we take the next steps in our lives and begin our careers in our respective fields I think we can contribute most to the world by working together and utilizing the skills and resources we have earned here at MIIS. This won’t be an easy feat by any means, the complex and changing nature of this world and the abundant choices that lie in front of us makes our coming choices very complex indeed.
What is beautiful about this, see that is the optimist in me coming out, is that we have our very own mafia! We have a family here in this room. Each of our respective fields has shortages and needs, which I believe our working together can bridge, even after we leave this campus.