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The Importance of Sharing Our Stories

By  | 

Gavin Lichtenstein

During our time in the School of Communication, stories have encompassed our work. In short films and in news features -- we have focused on stories. Through different concentrations, disciplines, and passions -- our convictions have been united by the stories that unite us.

Just for a second -- think about how your American University story started.

As we graduate from American University, our individual stories will soon become part of a larger story. It’s a story that begins in 1893, rooted in public service to others. A network where knowledge is used to serve.

Reflecting on this context, I asked myself: where do I fit into American University’s story?

I started by thinking back to why I chose American University School of Communication in the first place: service. My American University story started nearly a decade ago. Ten years ago, I started high school on a 4th grade reading, writing, and math level. To match, I had a stutter that made public speaking nearly impossible. Failing to find the words at times, I found my voice through community service.

Throughout middle school and high school, guidance counselors implored me to “consider options outside of college.” As the son of an educator who taught for 37 years with chronic epilepsy, that answer wasn’t good enough. Thanks for demanding more for me, Mom.

In middle school, I would sit with my seventh grade special education teacher and look at colleges for political science and communication. That’s where my American University story started. When I received my acceptance letter in January 2017 for graduate school at American University’s School of Communication, I called that seventh grade special educational teacher first.

From Capitol Hill to around the world -- American University alums are sprinkled like stars.

But, it wasn't until last summer when I started to see how my story intertwined with the larger American University story. Along with seven other graduate students from the School of Communication, we worked together with industry leaders and AU alums at MWWPR in Washington D.C. and New York to focus on a critical issue in the public relations industry -- the lack of diversity. We offered suggestions to founder, CEO, and alum, Michael Kempner based not only in the materials we studied, but in the experiences we have lived.

Every day for eight weeks, we worked together to address this important issue. We relied on our diverse stories. Our stories weren't connected by geography, race, or even age -- they were connected by hope and faith to make a difference. The stories that brought us to American University’s School of Communication were now moving others forward. My friends, that’s the power of storytelling.

When you walk into a room and no one looks like you – share your story. When you look into the evil eyes of injustice – share your story. When you see a child struggling to read – tell your story to move them forward.

Our stories enrich our lives. I believe in grace because I have seen it; hope because I have felt it; and forgiveness because I have needed it also.

My friends, our stories teach us that hope comes from us; hope is manmade. We don’t have to wait, we just have to be willing to look for it. In our communities, in our big cities, and where we are right now -- our stories represent the hope we seek through the values we share. That’s the beauty of hope.

When we tell our story to seek change, to move others forward -- we become part of the larger mission as graduates of American University.

Gavin Lichtenstein is graduating with a Master’s in Political Communication. He is originally from Montgomery County, Pennsylvania and graduated with a dual degree in mass media and journalism communication from La Salle University. During his graduate studies, Gavin served as a press intern for Pennsylvania’s senior Senator, Bob Casey Jr; Representative Brendan F. Boyle (PA-2), and most recently Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer in his leadership press office.Gavin is an Eagle Scout and is planning to work on a Senate campaign after graduation.