Speaker's shocking story has surprise ending

Student speaker Ather Dawood addresses the graduating class during the Fall Commencement morning session on Thursday,.

Photos by Ralph Freso/Thursday morning slideshow

The delivery of the speech was laudable.

The gasp was audible.

Student speaker Ather Dawood got the attention of his Fall Commencement audience Thursday morning in Grand Canyon University Arena when he began with this:

“A close friend recently shared with me that he always has felt unsafe and broken growing up.”

He proceeded to tell the story of an 8-year-old Iraqi boy who witnessed a war atrocity before immigrating to the United States four years later.

There was an explosion outside. When he went to investigate, a terrorist pointed a rifle in his face. Next door, he saw his neighbor being beaten and killed in front of his family.

The friend wondered what he could have done to stop it. Dawood, receiving his master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling, wondered how he could treat someone who had lived through that.

“The therapist in me couldn’t help but think how irrational that thought process was,” he said, adding that it taught his friend that resilience is developed through hardship.

Dawood told his fellow mental health counseling graduates that they should use their own suffering in learning how to care for others.

Dawood noted that the graduating students all had experienced adversities, such as the pandemic. Resilience is only the beginning, he said. They also must learn how to care for others.

After the boy moved to the United States, he was the victim of bullying and discrimination.

“People mocked him for how he looked, talked and dressed,” Dawood said. “Through these experiences, he learned that you cannot control how people treat you. You can only control how you react.

“In order to facilitate adequate treatment as future health care providers, we must engage in our own healing first.”

There was even more to the story. He then told of how the boy’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. He was the one who shaved her head as the chemotherapy robbed her of her hair.

Health care providers have the ability to change lives, he believes.

“As you celebrate with friends and family today, think about the trials that have helped you build resilience, the love others have shown you and the opportunity you now have to give that love back.”

Dawood takes a moment to compose himself after revealing the true subject of his story.

He had his listeners right where he wanted them.

“Now I have to let you in on a little secret,” he said. “My friend’s story I have been sharing with you, it’s not his story. It’s mine.”

The crowd first reacted with shock, then applause.

Dawood paused to compose himself, then finished with this:

“It’s through these experiences that I have learned resilience, self-care and the power of serving others.”

Standing ovation.

Well-deserved.

Contact Rick Vacek, Senior Manager for Internal Communications, at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].

Calendar

Calendar of Events

M Mon

T Tue

W Wed

T Thu

F Fri

S Sat

S Sun

8 events,

5 events,

5 events,

3 events,

5 events,

9 events,

3 events,

4 events,

3 events,

3 events,

1 event,

0 events,

3 events,

2 events,

2 events,

3 events,

2 events,

3 events,

1 event,

4 events,

3 events,

1 event,

3 events,

2 events,

1 event,

4 events,

3 events,

2 events,

3 events,

3 events,

2 events,

Chapel

GCU Magazine

Bible Verse

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. (1 John 3:1)

To Read More: www.verseoftheday.com/