Cosmin Florescu, M.A., M.P.H. ‘09
GW Commencement on the National Mall
May 17, 2009
My dear fellow graduates: In 1988, when most of you were born, I lived in communist Romania behind the Iron Curtain. At that time, you and I were enemies, representing different ideologies. In 1989, I experienced Eastern Europe's shortest and bloodiest revolution, one week of terrifying violence as Romanian soldiers and citizens rose up to overthrow Nicolae Ceausescu, formerly known as the president of the Socialist Republic of Romania, but in reality a terrible tyrant.
The Romanian uprising was the culmination of a 1989 revolutions that began in Poland and Hungary, continued with the fall of the Berlin Wall, and swept eastward through Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria. Many of you have studied these events. I lived them.
Romania is now a thriving democracy in the European Union and a permanent member of NATO. Perhaps more importantly, the United States and Romania are now allies that address the same global challenges together. Thus, I stand before you today as a fellow countryman in more ways than one.
It is entirely fitting that the University named for the father of this country holds its graduation ceremony on the National Mall between two of the greatest symbols of our democracy, the United States Capitol and the Washington Monument. These monuments have a special meaning for me, a first generation immigrant from a country in the former Soviet bloc. Even though my parents and I had nothing but a suitcase when we arrived in this country in December of 1991, we knew we were in America, the land of opportunity, and that there was an available path for us to take that helped us reach our goal. We overcame the gritty hardship that most immigrants face, and today I graduate with two master's degrees.
One of the greatest strengths of our democracy is our ability to overcome periods of adversity. The majority of us have first-hand experience with the current economic situation and many of us are apprehensive about finding a job that will pay the rent, put food on the table, and repay student loans. In times like these, it's useful to reflect on past periods of hardship and the role that college graduates played in overcoming those challenging times. Students who emerged from college shortly after the Great Depression went to work building the highway system and inventing the earliest computer, while college graduates of the Cold War launched the first communications satellite and invented the Internet.
As a graduating class, we will overcome adversity again, not just because we are equipped with the skills needed for the jobs of the 21st century, but because we're imbued with the spirit of George Washington, who knew a great deal about triumph over adversity.
So I salute you, my fellow graduates, as you leave GW and go forth to take on the world. Some of you will work right here in D.C. to help operate this great government. Others will return to your home towns or home countries to work, travel, or study. Whatever your next step is, I wish you success.
I will return to my home state of California to take pre-med courses and then head off to medical school. I will also have the thrill of finally becoming an American citizen when I go through the naturalization ceremony later this summer.
I congratulate you all on your accomplishment so far and offer you my best wishes as you embark on your destiny.