Sixteen years after arriving in the United States as a refugee John Dau experienced one of the great thrills of his life when his life story, “God Grew Tired of Us,” was chosen to be OCC’s common read for the 2017-18 academic year. “This is the first place I ever went to school in America,” Dau said. “To have my book be selected for people to read means so much to me. It makes me emotional because this is where I started. Coming back home I feel honored and blessed.”
Dau was known as a “Lost Boy,” one of tens of thousands of refugees displaced or orphaned by war in the Sudan. He came to the United States in 2001 and began taking classes at OCC along with approximately 80 refugees. He would earn a degree in 2005 and today is president of the John Dau Foundation which provides healthcare and nutrition programs to the citizens of South Sudan. He is one of OCC’s distinguished Alumni Faces honorees and in 2014 he received the Outstanding Alumni Award from the American Association of Community Colleges.
Dau returned to the OCC campus in mid-October to participate in a series of events which gave students and community members the opportunity to speak with him. Events included Dinka Storytelling, a lecture in Storer Auditorium and a refugee panel discussion in which he was joined by six OCC students who were also refugees. They discussed their transition to life in the United States and the challenges associated with living so far from home. They answered many questions from those in attendance including if the United States felt like home yet, what they missed most about where they came from and what one thing they would like to take from America to their home country. Answers ran the gamut from pizza to open mindedness to the way people here want to help those in need.
Dau’s opportunity to return to campus and spend time with students was everything he hoped it would be and strengthened his bond with OCC. “This school isn’t only a place to learn. It’s a place where lost pride is redeemed and passion is grown. OCC incubated me without me knowing where I was going. OCC had the faith to allow me to come to school here and grow and now look at me coming back!”