Editor’s Note: This was the student address for USC’s Baccalaureate ceremony that Sarrah Shahawy gave as President of the USC student Interfaith Council, which includes students from many religious traditions and those who identify as spiritual or atheist. Baccalaureate is a multi-faith celebration for graduating students and their families and it is held the evening before Commencement. Sarrah Shahawy gave a separate speech as Valedictorian of the USC Class of 2011 at the Commencement Ceremony.
Faith. Foi. Iman. Fe. Emunah. Yakeen.
One word, with an endless array of layers and meanings. Powerful, defining, and all-encompassing. But what does it mean to have faith? It was the beauty of faith that made Jesus articulate his eternal words: God is love. It was the pursuit of faith that drove Muhammad up to a mountain cave where he would receive God’s revelation. It was the search for truth that led Siddaartha to abandon the life of a prince for that of an ascetic. It was through trust in God that Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son on the altar. And it was the search for a future to believe in that drove the Israelites through the Red Sea to freedom. These stories still resonate with us today because we are all looking for something to believe in. We want desperately to believe, to hope, to find meaning where others find none.