In my first semester at GW, I joined an organization called Banaa.org because I was impressed with its story and mission. Student activists influenced the university to leverage its educational resources to help bring peace to conflict-ridden Sudan by awarding a scholarship to a Sudanese student. Two years later, I realize that working with Banaa has helped me grow immensely as a young professional, but the greatest impact on my life comes from the friendship I developed with Makwei, the Banaa scholar.
Makwei, raised in a refugee camp since age seven, would certainly have much to teach someone like me who is interested in international affairs and conflict resolution. I remember briefly speaking with him once about the UN’s involvement in Sudan and the pastoral lifestyle of the Dinka in South Sudan. But after taking Modern Philosophy together in the spring of my freshman year, philosophy always became the center of our conversations. The first time I talked with him after class he explained how much his mind was opened by taking philosophy, a subject that he never had the chance of studying.
I remember meeting up with him for lunch one Saturday shortly thereafter; we sat in the restaurant debating about the existence of the universe for four hours! Sadly for the universe I was not able to provide him with a convincing argument. Even sadder to me is the fact that Makwei is graduating this spring. I will miss him and his skeptical nature after he flies back across the Atlantic, but I know he will keep touching the lives of those around him in his home nation.
I never would have met Makwei if it were not for Banaa, which is why I am so happy to be part of the organization. I am thrilled to say that GW will be welcoming its second Banaa scholar this upcoming semester. I look forward to meeting the newest scholar, whom I promise to convince, in Makwei’s honor, that the universe does exist.
—This piece was originally submitted to the George Washington University Philosophy Department Spring 2012 Newsletter—
George Washington University Class of 2014