Saberi mentor advises grads at Concordia commencement
MOORHEAD Roxana Saberi's former mentor urged graduating Concordia College students on Sunday to draw inspiration from the life of Saberi, the Fargo journalist imprisoned in Iran for supposedly being a spy. "You can be confident and humble. You ca...
Roxana Saberi's former mentor urged graduating Concordia College students on Sunday to draw inspiration from the life of Saberi, the Fargo journalist imprisoned in Iran for supposedly being a spy.
"You can be confident and humble. You can walk in high heels, even though you're still a klutz," said Margo Melnicove of National Public Radio.
Melnicove, a mentor to Saberi under NPR's Diversity Initiative, was filling in for the 32-year-old Fargo woman and former Miss North Dakota, who had been scheduled to deliver Sunday's commencement address at her alma mater.
"How we wish you were here," Melnicove said.
Speaking in second person for most of the speech, as though she were addressing the jailed journalist, Melnicove said Saberi's life provides lessons for a student clutching a newly earned degree.
Melnicove said Saberi's one-woman news bureau in Iran, where she reported for six years until she was arrested in January, was an example of the determination required in life.
"Talk about being resourceful. Talk about following your dreams," said Melnicove of Saberi's stint in Iran, the native country of her father, Reza Saberi.
Melnicove said Saberi was nervous in 2001 when 9/11 happened a day after she arrived in New York City for the NPR training. She wondered if she was up to the challenge of interviewing generals and senators in the midst of a crisis.
"But you forged ahead and did it anyway - very well, I might add," she said. "You can do it. You have what it takes."
Melnicove noted that Sunday was World Press Freedom Day, and that via the freeroxana.net Web site, journalists around the globe were beginning to take part in the hunger strike Saberi launched after her eight-year prison sentence was handed down in late April.
"Promise me you won't take them for granted," she said of free-speech and free-press rights. "Promise me."
Melnicove quoted from a list of career goals Saberi had written, which included reading more, discussing issues and being more empathetic. Another goal was: "Think less about my image and more about the value of my story."
Not every point was serious. Remembering Saberi's error-free application to the mentoring program, Melnicove told the graduates to never rely on spell-check software.
Melnicove's wasn't the only tribute to Saberi at the graduation ceremony. She was mentioned in prayers and in the student response from George Hauser, who urged students - via a "Star Wars" metaphor - to never let bad odds get them down.
In the crowd, a sea of students wore yellow ribbons on their black robes, which like those adorning trees and posts on campus, are meant to be a show of solidarity with Saberi.
The support is appreciated. Reza Saberi, who is in Iran with his wife, Akiko, said in response to an e-mail from Concordia President Pamela Jolicoeur that the family is grateful for the encouragement.
He said they'll pass along the sentiments to Roxana, who they are scheduled to speak with today.
The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.