Saja Almogalli, a Burlington High School (BHS) sophomore, spent a day last month alongside Jane Goodall, the United Nations (UN) Messenger of Peace, and Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General.
Almogalli spoke at the United Nations 20th annual global student video conference on Friday, Sep. 15.
This event, organized by the UN Department of Public Information, was in observance of the International Day of Peace and included students from all over the world.
During the conference a, ‘peace bell’, was rung, signaling a moment of silence. Almogalli introduced this ceremony with a short speech.
In her speech, Almogalli spoke about her experience moving with her family from Iraq to Turkey, and eventually from Turkey to Vermont. She also spoke about the discrimination and hardships that she and her family faced along the way.
“Today, I’m humbled to have been chosen to ring this bell,” Almogalli said in her speech. “This is because I believe that we can create a world where there is peace and justice. This bell itself, created by melting down war weapons, shows how something as ugly as war can be transformed [in]to something as beautiful as peace. As we ring this bell today, I truly feel that I am symbolizing a move towards where there is peace.”
Almogalli said that she was happy to be able to speak about peace, as it is something that she and her family have sought after for a long time.
“We don’t have peace in my home. That’s why I had to move. You know, sometimes I sit and say, ‘I love my country, and I hope I can come back again’,” Almogalli said. “It’s just still in my heart. I hope I can go back one day, but if there’s peace. Right now I read the news every day. Every day [it’s just] sad, sad and sad.”
Though it was hard for Almogalli to leave her home, she said it was a dream come true for she and her family to move to the United States.
“I am from Iraq. The Middle East. I never, never imagined I would come to America. […] I [now] can do anything [that] I want to do. [I can] study, and say what I want to say. I like it here because there is freedom,” Almogalli said.
Her family and friends all reacted positively to her speech at the UN. “My mom was really, really proud,” Almogalli said.
Almogalli offered her advice to students who are also hoping to live out their dreams.
“When you wake up every day, just say, you can do it. Everything is easy, [and] nothing is hard. Nothing is impossible. There is hope, and you can do it.”