Ishmael Beah’s speech was an inspirational success


Haley Curtis

Author Mr. Ishmael Beah signs freshman Samantha Suib's book the night before his speech.

Brendan Coffey, Graphic Designer

Ishmael has come a long way to arrive at Langley, and just as well, the freshman class and faculty have come a long way to organize the arrival of Ishmael Beah, but it was worth it. Ishmael is no longer the child soldier many have imagined him as, and is a great speaker due to a few special traits.

First of all, while the message he spreads is very serious and personal to him, he approached us with an almost casual manner. He smiled and shook hands, and when talking about his past he strayed away from the more grotesque scenes and instead spoke about his beginnings in America, and other details not mentioned in the book. These new details were very interesting and relatable, for example when Ishmael discussed his first encounters with a salad and escalator. These experiences made him seem more like an everyday ordinary person, and without our reading of the book, he very well could’ve passed for one.

Yet, the title of ordinary seems demeaning, for Ishmael had a great sense of humor. The audience burst out laughing several times throughout his story, which you wouldn’t expect in a speech about being a boy soldier, but Ishmael made it work. He was also very willing for questions; even some questions which I thought would make him uncomfortable he answered with sincerity and positivity. However, I still wish someone had asked him to either bust a beat or dance for us, just as he did throughout his childhood. (Maybe next time? Graduation speaker slot in three years is still open, Ishmael..)

Overall, I was touched by his speech and now realize how incredibly lucky we are.  His story and transition is inspiring, and gives me hope for what is possible in anyone’s future.