Address by Eugene Kogan PhD ’13
Good morning, it does sound great, Dr. Canada. I am honored to be in the same doctoral class with you.
I have been given four minutes to speak, and I usually take about 15 to introduce myself. So, Dr. Lander, not even being a mathematician I figured out the time does not match up. The math doesn’t work for me.
But I do want to take the time to say to President Fred Lawrence, to chair of the board Perry Traquina, to distinguished members of the board of trustees, distinguished faculty, distinguished honorary degree recipients, alumni, friends, family. Obviously my fellow alumni, future alumni, current alumni. It is a great privilege to be with you this morning.
I probably have used up my four minutes so I can just pick up my papers and go. But I’ve remembered that someone once told me that if you are running out of time and you want to make something simple and clear, say what you have to say as if you were saying it to your mom.
In fact, as it happens, my mom is right here. So is my dad. So, what I will do in the next couple of minutes is just tell you a very short story. I will not bore you to the death.
The story begins with a woman named Sima. Sima Selitskaya, my grandmother. When she was 82 years old, she valiantly, on her own, traveled to this country to file an affidavit with the U.S. government that allowed her whole family to reunite with her here next year.
My grandmother understood there were no guarantees in life. The American dream for many Russian Jews like us, and for thousands and millions of people all around the world, the American dream is just that— it was just a dream. But Sima took a chance on us, on her whole family, and in the process forever irreversibly transformed the menus of our lives; the menus of my life.
The menu of my life in Russia, for example, would not have getting a doctoral degree at a prestigious liberal arts university in political science.
Since then, a number of people—some of whom are sitting in this auditorium today and right behind me—have taken chances on me.
And I bet a number of people have taken chances on each one of you as well. They reached out – a professor, a friend – they said, “I will help you because I believe you have the potential to succeed. I believe in you.”
Now it is your turn. You wouldn’t be sitting here you today if somebody didn’t have the courage to believe in your dream. I surely would not be standing here today if somebody didn’t have the courage to do that for me. Now it’s your turn—our turn.
In the next few days, few months, few years, somebody will reach out to each one of you and say, “I am Brandeis alum. Can I get some advice, can I get a recommendation, can I get a word of comfort, a job? At least take the time to listen, and take the chance on someone’s dreams just like someone took a chance on yours.
I am not asking you to become a long-term mentor or give someone a lifetime of chances. But give someone a chance of a lifetime.
Just remember this. Call it the Sima rule—in honor of my grandmother—have the courage, at least once, to take a chance on someone’s dreams.
Thanks very much.