The commencement speaker at Portland State University came to the
United States only eight years ago as a 16-year-old immigrant from
Ethiopia with a fifth-grade education. He could not speak a word of English.
when Tamam Waritu stepped onto the dais to deliver the major address on
this Oregon campus this summer, he was introduced by the college
president and honored by his classmates for his outstanding
achievements in education.
“The only reason I am here,” he told the Portland State audience at his graduation, “is that I was given the opportunity.”
arrived in Portland in 1999 with his parents and 13 brothers and
sisters and was placed in an ninth-grade class because of his age.However, he had not attended school in Ethiopia for three years.
He struggled in school, took two years of English as a second language and improved.
graduated from Portland State with a double major in international and black
studies at the age of 24.
He is the
first in his family to be admitted to a university.
He plans to earn a doctorate in order to teach in college, he
told Jalene of the Afan Oromo service. Among his many volunteer activities while in college, he founded the
Gadab Foundation that has in the last two years offered scholarships to 24
young men and women in his home town in Oromiya.