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Graduation Speech - International Understanding 2020

Leandra Voss recipient of Award for International UnderstandingBy: Leandra Voss, Class of 2020

Thank you so much for this (award)! Mainly I want to thank my parents, for giving me so many opportunities to grow as a person and stopping nothing short of doing their utmost to support me in every way possible. I also want to thank BIS for their diverse environment and excellent education and my friends for teaching me about their cultures and letting me learn from them constantly.

To me, international understanding starts with the willingness to learn about someone, no matter how different they are from you. 

Often it is said that we should not see colour, or identity or views, that we should judge a person only by their character. But by doing that, we are ignoring the rich cultural history, important backstories and collective memories each person carries with them. 

The point of international understanding is not to ignore the culture that is carried through the person, but to recognise it, learn about it, empathise with it and learn from it.

Another part of international understanding is solidarity. This is the harder part, because solidarity requires empathy. It requires us to see past our individual perspectives, past our own experiences and having to step out of our comfort zone to evaluate ourselves, our cultures, our histories and our privileges.

In order to show international solidarity, we have to stop remaining silent when confronted with other people’s marginalisation. We have to stand up for all cultures, ethnicities, nationalities and identities. In this process, we might have to seriously challenge our existing set of beliefs and push ourselves to empathise.

But that is the point:
Only when we push ourselves to empathise, to learn and to be curious, can we begin each of our journeys towards global companionship and complete international understanding.