Chairman Speech By Abraha Zerai

6th KHSR, Washington, DC

July 7, 2018

Dear friends,

It is an honor and pleasure to stand in front of you and give a speech about my memories and experiences of Keren High School. My respected brothers, sisters, and the young generation, WELCOME to 6th Keren High School Reunion. 

Allow me to introduce the board of our reunion who worked hard to organize this weekend’s get together.  Our founding brothers from Toronto Tesfagabir Misgina, Bahlibi Tekle, Hassen Fereg, Yacob Idris, Zienab Warah,  from Calgary Michael Embaye, from Ottawa Yohannes Ferdinado,  from New York Mehari Estifanos, Woldensia, from DC, Yemane Desta, Mohamed Ali Mahmud, Habtimichael Woldesus , Tekleab Birhane, from Nebraska Semira Osman, from Seattle Jowet gual Gemetra and myself (Abraha Zerai), Michael Tikabo, from Bay Area Woldeslassie Tesfai, Dr. Mulugeta Abraha, from LA Dr. Woldermariam, Kibra Gabre, and from St. Louis  Missouri Muktar Saleh, from Texas Ibrahim Yassin, and from Illinois Dr. Fickak Habtes.

In the last few years, we lost some KH community members.  To mention a few, our dear father,  big brother, our role model, our mentor, and beloved principal Mahmud Kanoni who was part of our 3 reunions; Leterbirhan Michael who was at our 3 reunions, and as we speak her funeral service is being held today, and her body will be taken to Keren, Hashi who participated in 4 of our reunions, Mohamed Osman Mahmud, a brother of board member Mohamed Ali, and Sami son of board member Semira Osman.  May God rest their blessed souls in PEACE.  Well, we don’t know who is next.  Let’s enjoy life while we can and enjoy every minute of it! An English philosopher Alan Watts once said, and I quote, “You probably won’t be able to enjoy the future if you can’t even enjoy the present.”  It is true let’s have fun now before it is too late. As Aristotle, a Greek philosopher also stated, “Happiness depends upon ourselves.” Let’s get busy being happy and enjoying life. 

Our 6th reunion is being held in the event of reconciliation.  Our people are rejoicing at the news of peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia. I hope this peace talks become a reality that would end our sufferings, our mass exodus that caused deaths of many youths in the deserts of Libya, Sinai and the Mediterranean Sea, to mention some.  It looks like it is time say, “enough is enough.” It gives us hope that our next reunion may be in our beloved city, KEREN Xada, that we all missed a lot.

Why do we have reunions, someone may ask. Generally speaking, we all left our beautiful city for the same reason.  We didn’t leave because our families couldn’t feed us; we didn’t leave because we could not get along with one another; we didn’t leave because we hated Keren.  We all left because we can’t live in our city we all call home PEACEFULLY.  Now that we are away, we miss our past, our childhood, our families, and our city.  Long time ago there was always a talk of reunion by many for a long time.  In Tewolde Yohannes’s daughter’s wedding in 2007,  the following friends met and planned to push for a reunion: Tesfagabir, Woldeslassie, Michael Tikabo, Dr. Woldermariam, Dr. Mulugeta Abraha, wedi Philips and myself. The next day after the wedding,  yet again, we continue the reunion conversation with a group of Kerenites that included Jemil Petros, Abraha Temnewo, Stifanos Tewelde, Redi Zerai, Zemhiret Saare, Kesete Dirar, Tesfagabir Misgina at Woldeslassie’s home in Berkeley. When he went back to Canada, Tesfagabir spread the news to Yacob, Bahlibi, Hassen, and Yohannes.  Before we know it, a group in Toronto, set a date and hosted our first reunion. The reason for a reunion was because we missed one another, and we need to get together to reminisce our past, our childhood, our school, and our Keren. We felt that meeting old friends was a therapy to all the stressing we face living in far away foreign land.

After the second reunion the organizing committee saw a necessity in having a by-law or a guide-line to tie us together to specific principles. The Keren High School conducted many extensive meeting on having a “Guideline or By-law” as basis for this reunion.  We emailed it to all Kerenites who attended the last reunion. We asked for feedback.  At the end we have a final one.  This is not written on stone, but with time it could be developed and improved.  We don’t have time to read the whole bylaw.  If you would like to have a copy, please contact us, and it will be available in Sweetkeren.com soon.  Here are some:

  1. Name: Keren High School Reunion                                                                                                                          

  2. MEMBERSHIP FORMATION

    1. Students from all walk of life who attended Keren High School can form this organization

    2. Honorary members are those who never attended Keren High School, but who fully support and accept the objectives of the reunion.                                                                                                                                                    

  3. OBJECTIVES

    1. To unite students who attended Keren high school from its inception to present, this includes members from inside the country as well as those in Diaspora for SOCIAL GATHERING.

    2. Keren High School Reunion clearly and purely operated and organized under the umbrella of non-political, non-religious, non-regional and non-profit organization.

    3. To convene the reunion every Two years unless amended by the General Assembly at a duly constitute reunion.                                                                                                                                                

  4. STRUCTURE OF THE ORGANIZATION

    1. The Board (Standing committee)

    2. Executive committee                                                                                                                                                                    

  5. MEETING - Committee Procedure(s)

    1. Meetings are conducted through teleconferencing.                                                                                                          

  6. EXPECTED WORKING PRACTICE.

    1. It is expected from every individual member to follow the highest standard of ethical behavior in discussion(s), mutual respect.                                                                                                                                                                     

  7. AMENDMENTS AND ADDENDUM

    1. This guidelines may be amended by two third (2/3) vote of preparatory committee members who are called for the purpose of such change.

 

Very briefly, I would like to tell some highlights of our 6 reunions.  First reunion was in Toronto.  Thanks to Hassen, Tesfagabir, Bahlibi, Yacob, Zeinab, and others who reside in Toronto hosted our reunion. We had some of our teachers in attendance.  Mr. Rajan and his wife, Mr. Rogers a peace corps in the 60th.  We were meeting after 30 years of separation.  I remembered that we didn’t sleep for during the reunion.  Mr. Roger brought many photos, so did Mr. Rajan and his wife.  They talked about their memories. Our professional brothers gave us lessons life and living healthy.  Second reunion was in DC.  Our honored guest Mr. Hugh.  Mr. Hugh and his wife told us that they consider themselves as DEKE Keren.  They even named their child Keren.  Third reunion was also in DC. Our guests were Mr. Kanoni, and Joan.  Joan, a Peace Corps who was married in Keren, share pictures and her memories.  Mr. Kanoni told us what he did to instill love in education in us under the dire circumstances surrounding us. Thanks to Ustaz Kanoni hard work, many of his former students are doctors and professionals. At minimum, they have bachelor’s degree.  Fourth reunion was in LA.  We had world renowned, Haben Girma who was legally deaf and blind gave us inspiring speech.  We also heard from Dr. Saba who talked about strategies to raise successful children.  Dr. Kiflemariam told us about how our people lived under the Ethiopian colonization; he mention Ona and Bisigdra where Ethiopian’s soldiers killed many fathers, mothers and children.  Fifth reunion was in DC.  Dr. Tesfamariam who came from England, told us how student life was under the Derg era. 

To sum it up, in these reunions I learned a lot from presentations and poems. I also met old friends and most of all, I made new friends.  In these reunions friendship is formed, and not only that we have 3 relationships that started here.   Everyone knows about these reunions.  The is the only reunion that survived all odds.  There are many who don’t want to see us as an organized group, but no one could stop Deki Keren Xada from continuing their cohesion and love of one another.

 

This 6th reunion is special because for some, it is the 50th anniversary of their high school graduation.  For me, it is my 45th high school reunion.  In 1973, I remember schools in Eritrea were all closed.  I was in Addis Ababa for my senior year, and graduated on that year.  I don’t know what happen to the years; these days the clock’s hands move very fast.  I can’t believe time has wings and could fly away.  But I remember my teachers, my classmates and how new our school was.

What is good about Keren

We can’t speak about our school without speaking about Keren.  Keren is a special place, a model for the whole world.  I am proud WEDI KEREN.  When I introduce myself to a stranger, I always say I am from Keren.  One day an American Asked me where I am from after hearing my accent.  I responded, “I’m from Keren.”  “Where is Keren?” he asked, and I said, “It is Texas.” Actually, there is a town in Texas called Kerens.  Google it if you don’t believe me.  Maybe we should have a reunion in that place.

Keren as I remember it, is a haven, a place of tolerance and respect.  In Keren there were Bilen, Tigre, Tigrigna speakers, Teqarir as we used to call them, a group from Somali, a small portion of Italian descents. Languages spoken were Bilen, Tigre, Tigrigna, Saho, Arabic and some more.  The interesting thing about Keren is that these people lived side by side as one family with respect.  It was a diverse community but living in Unity and cohesion.  We had the 2 religions, but IZAN from the mosque and the bells from the churches didn’t bother anyone; they were not considering a liability, but in the contrary they were assets, and used them as clocks and appreciated them.  My father used the early dawn IZAN when he would go to church. Keren’s people are known for fun loving, caring, and God-fearing community.  We are all kind, gracious and friendly individuals.

What is next

It has been 27 years since independence.  Many young deki Keren have graduated from that school.  Hence, our younger generation who attend our school after independence should play an important role in the continuation of this reunion, because at the reunion we get energized, refreshed, and running our engine of life smoothly.  It is good for our bodies and souls. It is a therapy. We meet old friends and make new ones; we intermingle and share memories with intergenerational spectrum.  What an opportunity. Don’t take this very lightly.  Time is short, and we only live once; we need to make the best of it.  I am going to leave with you with an old proverb which Benjamin Franklin stated it boldly, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” I am going to change it to “A laughter a day and reunion every two years keep Deki Keren Xada healthy and away from the doctor.” Let’s enjoy our 6th reunion.

Ustaz Mahmoud Kanoni