Past Glory, Present Honor

Ethar El-Katatney '07 takes pride in being Egyptian

Photographed by Ghufran El-Katatney

I am a hajja — a Muslim who has attended the annual pilgrimage in Mecca. For me, the most beautiful thing about hajj is standing in front of the ka'aba and looking not at it, but at the millions of Muslims gathered for one purpose. The old and the young, the rich and the poor, from every corner of the world. The feeling of unity is indescribable. Anyone who went to Tahrir during the revolution will tell you that the feeling of unity amongst Egyptians there paralleled the feeling of unity in hajj.

The Egyptian Revolution was stunning. Indescribable. Euphoriainducing. So many emotions and so many events that it would take books to recount. It's been more than a month, and I still have to remind myself sometimes that it really did happen. That all the anxiety, the worry and the gut-wrenching fear were worth it. That Ben Franklin was right when he said, "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Egypt is on the brink of a new age. We're all exhilarated about where our country is heading, but we're all also apprehensive. It is time for us to be extra careful. Extra cautious. Extra hard working.

Sedition threatens the country, and we are all currently suffering from a crisis of trust. New leaders, the military, sectarian strife, even men versus women. Conspiracy theories abound, and we see traitors on every corner.

Every revolution has a price. Our economy is suffering. Tourism has been hit hard. The police have all but disappeared. Thugs and opportunists are capitalizing on the lack of security and running amuck. To make sure the price doesn't increase day by day, it's time for Egyptians to calm down a bit and to give the country room to breathe. Otherwise, we risk descending into complete chaos and anarchy.

Sheikh Mohammad Al-Shaarawy, God rest his soul, once said, "The one who revolts justly is the one who does so in order to destroy corruption, and then calms down in order to rebuild.

"It's time to rebuild Egypt.To take the same spirit that allowed Egyptians to revolt peacefully and then to clean up the square after them, and use it to build a better, stronger and more beautiful Egypt.

Next time I travel, I'm holding out my green passport with pride. And not because I come from the land of the Pharaohs, but because I come from the land of the people who woke up and showed the world the right way to bring about change. I am so proud to be an Egyptian

By Ethar El-Katatney '07

Excerpt from Ethar El-Katatney's undergraduate commencement speech in February 2007

"The world outside is tough. We live in a region which is becoming more and more disheartening. Everyday, we are bombarded with news and images of a deteriorating Middle East. It's easy for us to become cynical, pessimistic and apathetic people, looking for the simplest way to live our lives. But there is nowhere to run from the fact that the Middle East needs us. True, it is riddled with countless social, political and economic problems, and yet something remains that proves all is not lost: hope. …Our people may be repressed, our economies stagnant and lagging behind the West, but this does not mean that we are in any way lacking. We have the education, the intelligence, the energy, the motivation and the integrity to stimulate positive change. It is up to us to prove there is so much more to the Middle East than what some people choose to see. …It's not enough to dream of a better Middle East and a better world. Let's take those dreams and turn them into reality. Let's start now."