As my family sat in anticipation, awaiting their daughter and sister’s name to be called, they were approached by a young Middle Eastern man. He asked if his mother could sit with my family.
Noticing my brothers’ uncertainty, the gentleman in his black robe and class of 2011 sash assured them, “We are from Iran. But don’t worry, we are not terrorists.”
With a quick laugh and a smile, my family made room for his mother. USC’s 128th commencement ceremony was a day of celebration, a day where people of different backgrounds came together to support the efforts of their diligent children, a feeling we should all embrace.
Sarrah Shahawy, president of the USC Interfaith Council and valedictorian, mentioned in her speech that USC is one of the most religiously diverse campuses nationwide.
We have learned to accept and to love others of differing religions and cultures and to add them to the melting pot that is USC. As diversity grows in California, the religious debate heightens in the region where the woman my family sat with at graduation came from.
As my father spent the last three days in Bahrain for business, he frequently updated my family on his travels and told me of his experiences.
He told us a man he became acquainted with on the street said the hot-button issue in Bahrain at the moment is not concern for a potential revolutionist uprising, rather the uncertainty of Iran’s regional motives.
The Bahraini people fear, as do most others in Persian Gulf states, Iran’s growing strength, nuclear plans, allegiance to terrorist organizations and differences in Islam ideology.
In the Carnegie Papers, Marina Ottaway, an expert in the Middle East, said, “Iran is a predominantly [Shiite] country ruled by [Shiite] clerics in a region that is predominantly Sunni and governed by Sunni rulers.”
This is a reality that causes great tension among Muslims in the gulf. But Iranian leaders spread worry even past the gulf; the concern for national security hits the entirety of the Middle East. For example, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, along with King Abdullah II of Jordan, has raised alarm over the dominance of Shiism.
The king has warned of an emerging “[Shiite] crescent,” and Mubarak has declared that the Arab-Shiites are more loyal to Iran than to their own states. In spite of this, perhaps in the case of Bahrain, a country ruled by the Sunni majority, the minority of Shiites is resentful of its officials because they face widespread discrimination from the majority.
Unfortunately, we are not blind to the fact that this religious warfare exists within the United States. Students at USC live among Sunni and Shiite Muslims in addition to so many other religions and their sects.
Whether one person is right or wrong should no longer be a question of acceptance and security. This might be an idealistic point of view, but this is the hope I believe our graduates hold, that we can somehow find a way to one day live together in harmony, as we did on the day of graduation.
This story is a thank you to my university; it’s a thank you for the security, receptiveness and universal acceptance the Trojan Family has afforded us. This is the true beauty of America, a beauty that we can celebrate at a university graduation and realize the dissimilarity of values no longer matter while love, approbation and joy become precedent.
Anne Easton is a senior majoring in philosophy, politics, and law. Her column “Beyond Figueroa” runs Wednesdays.