Parting thoughts: How to survive UC Berkeley

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MAY 08, 2013

“Let me say, at the risk of seeming ridiculous, that the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love.” — Ernesto Che Guevara

There is a passage in the Quran that reads, “Struggle is ordained,” and the holy book of Muslims reads elsewhere that “with difficulty comes ease.” The life of a UC Berkeley student is difficult. Not only do we have to find a way to be academically competitive with some of California’s best minds, but we are also thrown into a highly politicized campus that high school often does not prepare us for.

Not many high schools teach you how to protest or how to have discussions about controversial topics, such as affirmative action, divestment — from the prison industrial complex or companies that support the illegal occupation of Palestine — or controversial speakers like Louis Farrakhan. Without doubt, UC Berkeley tests you; it digs deep into the fiber of your beliefs and forces you to look again and to struggle between your upbringing and the ever-changing reality of our world. Struggle and difficulty are constant in the process.

Over the past four years, I’ve been in those tough moments when my values and beliefs were challenged. I, like you, have been in those discussions that require us all to reconsider our perspective on the world. I, like you, have been in those moments that we probably wish never occurred. But I don’t carry many regrets.

Life is not so much about each mistake we make or each individual success we may have; rather, life is about the wholeness of our journey — the ever-evolving process of growth and development. And there is a transactional relationship between growth and development with struggle and difficulty. Put differently, struggle, difficulty and pain allow us to grow — they are the definitive means to that end. The one piece of advice that I would offer to everyone is to truly embrace life.

One of the most rewarding experiences we can engage in is confronting the difficulties of political discourse. I believe that our society is not the way it is by happenstance. Our society is in the condition it is because human beings made it this way. Prisons aren’t overcrowded without policymakers creating realities that would make them overcrowded.

Working within the tough political discourse on campus allows us to actually take part in the shaping of tomorrow’s world. And partaking in this process, regardless of how you do it, rewards the conscience with a sense of accomplishment — that you did something that will impact our world. Engaging in this discourse at Berkeley has exponentially made me a stronger, more courageous and developed individual.

To the graduating seniors, a big and beautiful yet oppressive and difficult world awaits us, and it is in dire need of change. So I ask you to embrace the difficulty that the world presents, engage in shaping tomorrow and hold true to your values. If you do these things, be sure to know that “with difficulty comes ease.” Let us proceed forth in the light of the sun, marching forward until victory is won. Let the love of self, kind and others be our inspiration as we seek to make our world a better place.

Contact Salih Muhammad at 


MAY 08, 2013