The Exceptional Graduate
My name is Linda Vega, and like you, a few years back I too walked out of my graduation ceremony with hopes, dreams and a college degree, thinking that the diploma in my hand would be enough to fulfill those dreams.
But as I transitioned from life on campus to a real life of having a job, I realized that sometimes my dreams were harder to grasp because in real life nothing is a theory. In real life, daily activity is full of challenges that may lead to success or failure.
I want to tell you to not be afraid of challenges because they are what bring out the best of us. Challenges make you realize who you truly are during the most difficult of times, and they are what make you realize what your true desires in life really are. Challenges are what make us stronger and give us wisdom. Challenges are, in essence, the entire reason that we succeed. But if we fear them, challenges will keep us from that success.
Whatever it is that got you to this point, wasn’t easy. That decision to apply to this University, the late night studying, the assignments, the papers, avoiding the temptation of friends over studying, etc. All of these challenges were necessary to build you into what you are today, graduates.
These days, many would tell you that challenges for young Americans graduating from a university are bigger than ever, that America is on a path to where we are no longer an exceptional nation, and that the youth have a more difficult time in finding jobs, opportunity, etc. But I disagree.
Let me remind you that challenges are what made America an exceptional nation and challenges are what set Texas free as a state as well. When America was in the process of forming, there were challenges about what is it that people wanted in this new land. Well it was essentially the same thing that we all want today----freedom. You see because with freedom we can accomplish so much that will allow us to overcome those challenges. So America was built on this idea that so long as people were “free” to choose, we could beat the odds against all of those who thought that this young country would fail. Along the way, America came close to failing. We had the war with England that would allow us to gain independence; we had the civil war that almost tore the country apart; we had the civil rights issue, and along the way we had to win over the right to vote, as women and as minorities.
But America came through. Those challenges were what we needed to push close to the edge and what helped us to beat the odds. You see when people see you win, you become Exceptional. You become a hero----a folk hero because you beat the odds. Past challenges have made us an “exceptional” people and that is why you must never be afraid to accept a challenge because it will make you into a better person than you were yesterday.
So these are still good days to be a proud American, and these are great days to be a Texan.
As a proud Texan, I can tell you that we don’t see challenges as an obstacle, we see it as an opportunity to make changes and to create something new. I don’t know if you keep up with the news, but if you read employment numbers, you will see that in some areas of Texas, especially in West Texas, unemployment is only about 3%, and we can’t even keep up with housing.
Similarly, if Texas were a nation, Texas would be number 1 as an oil producing country in the world, all in the next 2 years. Our neighbor to the South--- Mexico, for the first time in 70 years, is about the open natural resource reserves to outside investment. And do you know that about 80% of those resources are near the Texas borders and in the Gulf of Mexico where Texas companies will have direct access to that market.
I tell you about these numbers to remind you that, even if some skeptics tell you that our best years are behind us, I am here to tell you that our best years are ahead, so that your hopes and expectations as newly graduates can still be tapped to maximize their full potential.
As you can tell, I love Texas. People may accuse me of loving Texas, like many of us love our Mammas, and it’s true. Texas gives me a sense of peace and freedom unlike any other that I have known. I have lived and traveled abroad; I have lived in 5 states but in the end I returned home to my beloved Texas where opportunity was greater for me more so than in any other state.
For many, you may be the first in your family to attend and graduate from colleges; and probably, both of your parents had to work full-time jobs so you could go to college. In essence, they work hard so that you can live the American dream of graduating from college. So it will be you, the young first generation Latinos, and other minorities, that will carry Texas into the demographic revolution when the state doubles its population.
It will be you, the ones preserving what we create today; it will be you driving the new Texas as we transition from rural, into a urban state. A state that boasts a population of 27 Million, we are set to double that by 2060, so the opportunity for all of you is still enormous.
I want you to remember three things from here on:
1. Respect yourself because if you don’t, no one else will, and remember to respect your parents because they are the reason that you are here today. From this lesson, you will learn to respect others.
2. Be Happy and if you don’t know what that is, find it. Happiness is temporary and flees at every moment, so keep looking for it. Objects give us temporary happiness, and soon we find that these are transitional to a bigger moment of happiness that we must keep searching for in the project of life.
3. Help others now that you are a graduate. You are so much wiser than you were when you started this process. You are now someone who can help your younger sibling, a cousin, a friend, or someone needing mentorship about how to educate themselves. You have an opportunity to inspire someone else along.
My fellow graduates and friends, these are great days ahead. They are full of opportunity that will become your success and your legacy. Take notes, take pictures, take it all in, because these are the moments that will create an exceptional life. And as you walk out of here thinking about what jobs you will find, always remember that your own determination and your own will is what will help you to succeed and to shape this wonderful state of Texas we call home.
Buena suerte Y Que Viva Texas!