Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Final Banquet

Reem Abdou, a student from Fort Lee, NJ, proposes a toast at the final banquet at Prospect House. (Photo Credit: Brian Rokus '99).
By Reem Abdou (Fort Lee, NJ)

The banquet in Prospect Hall was an emotional affair.

Never before have I felt the tears well up in my eyes but refuse to fall, simply because it would make everything all the more real. Never have I wished my arms long enough to wrap everyone around me in one tender hug. Never did I think that I would feel great sadness and pain but also pride and joy at the same time.

I looked across at the four, round white-clothed tables around me that seated my fellow journalists and friends, the incomparable counselors and directors and distinguished guests and supporters of the program and I knew that cathartic crying wouldn’t be enough. I wanted to cry, of course, but I also wanted to laugh, to smile, to hug everyone until I couldn’t feel anything anymore. The conflicting emotions coursed violently through my body and prompted me to deliver an impromptu toast in which I especially recognized the incredible directors and founders of the program along with every single participant of SJP.

A little while later, one of the directors delivered his own speech. Now, I’ve heard President Obama’s Inauguration address and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” oration, but believe me when I write that neither has moved me the way Richard Just did. Maybe it was his disarmingly simplistic deliverance that resonated more than any lilting cadence ever could. Or maybe it was the way that he made kind eye contact with each and every individual in the room, as if he was our reassuring brother or father, and not one of the four, great Princeton alumni who, eight years ago, set out to diversify newsrooms and give underprivileged students opportunities they could never imagine. I don’t know what it was, but that day, his touching speech inspired and encouraged all of us in ways we did not expect.

And as we filed out of Prospect House, I vowed to make my fellow journalists and friends, the incomparable counselors and directors, and the distinguished guests and supports of the program proud. I promised to keep in touch with everyone and even come to Princeton once again, maybe as a student, but even more surely, as a counselor. I pledged that I’d uphold the true values and ideals of journalistic integrity whether I ended up a journalist or even an investment banker. And more fervently that anything else, I swore that no matter what, I would “never stop believing.”

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