An inspiring graduation speech from Wahid Khan, YES Student

Wahid Khan, YES Student from Pakistan, hosted in Wisconsin in 2011-2012, shares his inspiring graduation speech. Read the full text below.

"Hello, everyone.

Assalamualaikum from Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Pakistan.

Salamat from the Phillippines.

Hai from Norway and Sweden.

Sawadee from Thailand.

Oi from Brazil.

and Hallo from Germany.

I am Wahid from Pakistan.

I am not very funny but my American classmates say that I talk funny.

Can I tell you a secret?

I am in love.

I’m sorry, Ms. Walz; it is not with you.  But math is cool.

Not you either, Ms. Koehl.  But I do love history.

Ms. Luher and Ms. Halloway, I’m sorry, not you either.  But I do love to jam out.

And not you either, Mr. Fiene, even though neither of us is very funny.

I am in love with America.

Becoming a host family is an opportunity to change the course of a student’s life.  You can make a difference for one child who may make a difference to a whole country...


Exchange students allow the light of freedom to find its way into some of the dark places in the world.

I had better be clear about this because one of my Latino classmate’s is named America.

So, it is not my classmate, Senora America.  I think she’s taken.

It’s this country that I have fallen in love with.

It’s the idea of freedom and liberty and the pursuit of happiness that I love.

Tonight I have the great honor to speak for nine individuals who were once strangers to each other and to all of you.

But, now, we are friends, not only with each other but also with our Sauk Prairie friends and families.

We are nine children who are now adults;

nine travelers who left their homes, said goodbye to their families and friends, knowing that they would not see them for a whole year;

nine ambassadors who brought their countries to Sauk Prairie and who will take Sauk Prairie back to their homes, halfway around the world

…and have we got some stories to tell.

I am not a mind-reader, but the smiles on the faces of my classmates tell me that most of you know who I am talking about.  We are the exchange students.

We are the students who brought with us to Sauk Prairie High School the color of diversity and the scent of acceptance.

We are the students who shared our cultures and embraced your culture;

and over the course of this past year,

we have come to know what it is to be an American,

and it is good.

We came to the United States with the goal of exchanging cultures,

to learn what the United States had to teach us about life and about living,

to share what our cultures have learned about life and about living,

and to better understand this country that stands so tall on the world stage.

In the end, we came to bridge the cultures of many worlds, worlds that are oceans apart but of the same humanity.

Adjusting to a new culture is never easy, especially when there is a difference of sky and earth between the cultures. Living in USA for people coming from strict religious societies of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Philippines is not very different than entering a dream world where all structure dissolves and we float on clouds.

It is strange to live in cities without busy public transportation like rail systems of Sweden, Germany and Norway. It is especially not easy figuring out what is funny in America.  But, somehow, we learned that the way we speak is funny enough for our American hosts.

Most of us never believed in luck. It is not a significant part of our cultures. Of course, we have no kids from Ireland with us.

But once we got here and began to experience this society called Sauk Prairie, we all began to believe that we were the luckiest kids alive.

The reason this was possible was not because of us, but because of all of you.  You have made our experiences memorable and remarkable, the best times of our lives.

As we head along the boulevard once traveled by the tribes of the original Sauk prairie, and then as we lose sight of the town as we cross the Wisconsin River for one last time, we will remember our hosts and our friends

It is hard to believe, but it is the end of our tremendous time with all of you. In couple of days, we will be taking down the pictures from the walls and packing our bags as we empty our rooms that have been home for the past year. It will be time to say good bye.

We will reluctantly give our hugs, and we will share our tears because we will be leaving some of our new best friends.

We will go through the town, one last time, on our way to the airport.

All the great moments we spent here will be replaying in our minds like a movie.

As we pass the Home of the Butter Burger for the last time,

as we head along the boulevard once traveled by the tribes of the original Sauk prairie, and then as we lose sight of the town as we cross the Wisconsin River for one last time, we will remember our hosts and our friends.

Our school days will be over:

There will be no more wandering the halls trying to avoid the guards;

No more sports practices or games;

No more lunch-time NASCAR as we raced for fast food at lunch;

Our seats in the cars will be vacant, waiting for a new friend to take it.

No more running to beat the bell;

No more tardy slips printed by cool machines;

No more secret text messages during class;

No more librarian singing songs from the 70s and booting us off computer games;

No more hicks, jocks, preps, skateboarders, geeks or music dudes;

But most of all, no more American humor or new friendships.

On the other hand, we will be returning to our homes, the places we know best.  We will return to our friends and families, anxious to tell them our stories of coming to America, the stories of this strange and wonderful place.  Stories of people called Snookie and stories of a telephone in every citizen’s pocket.

Our memories of spending a year in the Land of the Free will remain powerful in our minds.  We will readjust to our cultures and our lives across the seas.

But, like a peaceful dream, Sauk Prairie will visit our memories, reminding us of this truly remarkable time in our lives.

It is sad to think that we may not see each other again.

But all of us will be thankful for the moment, that we had the chance at all to be here with all of you.

We will miss everything and everyone.

We are thankful for your kindness and giving.

We also thank our teachers who supported us throughout our academic experience.

Shukria our host families for accepting us and caring for us.

Cheers to our sports’ coaches who taught us about your games and what it means to be part of a team.

Karbakun to all the volunteers who made this exchange possible.

Thanks to all of Sauk Prairie for being such an open and accepting community.

We were even accepted by the guys in the big trucks who drove tractors to school sometimes.  These guys especially liked the blondes with the funny accents.

My classmates, you live in a great society. Because you grew up in the United States, you might not appreciate how the rest of the world works.  You are a model for many other countries.  Not every man, woman and child in this world is born free and has the ability become anything he or she wants to become.  But in America, every citizen has that opportunity. Be proud of your society and protect it from those who would change it.

People of Sauk Prairie, please continue opening city to the world.  The world needs you.  Exchange students allow the light of freedom to find its way into some of the dark places in the world.

Becoming a host family is an opportunity to change the course of a student’s life.  You can make a difference for one child who may make a difference to a whole country.

Hosting can give you the chance to make a difference in this world that everyone shares.

As a final thank you, I would like to share a poem for our Eagle host community.

It is in Urdu, my native language, but I assure you that it is heartfelt and sincere, even if I sound extra funny when I read it:
“nahi hae tera nashiman qasre sultani kae gumbat par..

Tu shaheen hae basera kar pahallon ki chitanon mae”

Roughly translated, it means:

As I leave America, hoping to one day come back,

I smile because I now know paradise.

Thank you."