Speech by Dr. Enrique G. Murillo, Jr.

Good afternoon, muy buenas tardes, 

I am so excited and delighted to be here, as your speaker. 

First I want to acknowledge all the Graduation Celebration sponsors and organizers. Thank you foremost to Dr. Ralph W. Kuncl, 11th president of the University of Redlands;  Dr. Andrew Wall, Dean of the School of Education; Professor Angela Clark-Taylor, feminist scholar, educator, and community leader.;Professor Scott Stevens, Director of Writing (with oversight for English-language support).

And last but not least, Professor Jose Lalas, Director for the Center for Educational Justice. 

Thank you for inviting me, and I'm honored to be here. Much appreciation and recognition to the University of Redlands faculty, staff and administrators; and of course you all here. I am in awe of your accomplishments. 

So thank you all – how about a round of applause for just everybody!

It is great cause for jubilation and joy to celebrate the culmination or closing of this chapter in your lives and careers, as a new one opens, as you enter a new phase. You have been blessed with the intelligence, the love of family (familia), friends, and community. Most of all, you have been blessed with the work ethic of your parents and the legacies of struggle waged by your and our ancestors. 

You came here prepared to work hard in your studies and to survive whatever obstacles were placed in your path. It was not easy, but you have persevered. You have every right to feel extremely proud of yourself. I know your parents are. And so are those who love you.

Some of you are immigrants. Others of you, like me, are children of immigrants. In particular, children of honest, working class, everyday common folk. Some of you are the first in your families to graduate from college. 

We never forget that the tassel is worth the hassle!

Bienvenidos a todos ustedes que celebran con nosotros el dia de hoy, a los papas, mamas, abuelitos, abuelitas, hermanos, hermanas, tias, tios, primos y amistadas, y hasta los vecinos que decidieron venir, les agradecemos su presencia y apoyo.

Es un  honor de estar frente de Ustedes. 

Vengo hoy a decir que Si Se Puede!  I’m not any different than any of you. I was born and raised in South East Los Angeles, the son of Mexican immigrants.  De gente humilde y trabajadora. Mis padres de Culiacan Sinaloa, mi madre de decendencia indígena (Tahue), venieron a los Estados Unidos para crear una vida mejor. No solo para ellos mismos, sino para sus hijos. La cosa mas importante para nosotros es la familia.

And I stand here before you, with great pride and humility, as doctor Enrique Murillo, a university professor. Statistical predictions showed it was highly unlikely I would graduate from high school, much less college or graduate school. Even today, less than one-half percent of Chicano/Latinos hold a Doctorate. There were plenty of adults in my life who told me college was not in the cards for me. Fortunately, I ignored them completely; I attended Cal State and UCLA, and ultimately earned my Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Family is most important! And you know what! We too believe in education!  It’s a myth that Latinos don’t care for education. Many of you all are our proof.

Why am I so excited? Because wherever I go and whenever I speak, I speak to the conviction that every one of us can make it. Each one of us can reach for the stars and follow our dreams.

Historically, what’s the path been to that opportunity? The path to reaching for those stars and following our dreams?

We all share something in common, each of us is not a statistic.

And there’s always been just one path!

But with education comes with responsibility.

Each one of us got here on the shoulders of others.  The educated person knows that we never, ever achieve and dream by ourselves, and of only ourselves.  I’m not anybody special – but I’m here because I got an education. Because I got the opportunity – and I took it.

That is why education is the great equalizer, a civil right, and our best shot at prosperity and a better life.

 

Only you know the sacrifices made for you to be here, to have completed, and beat the odds.

But we know hard work, don’t we? Some of us come from families that have with blood, sweat and tears made their down payments in you all for a better tomorrow.

 

We have parents that work two or three jobs to make ends meet.

Some of us have left family behind in other countries to fulfill the dreams of our ancestors.

Some of us have dealt with the complications of being among the first in our families to attend college.

 

Some of us have younger brothers and sisters who look up to us and whose view, I hope, is that college is no longer if, but when.

Some of us have been lucky and have followed the footprints of someone close to us that has led the way.

 

Now graduates; being said, we all know we are not here alone and made it through completely on our own steam. Often times we walk on the backs of others.

Para ustedes, padres de familia, los felicito y les pido que sigan apoyando a sus hijos en sus metas academicas.

 

Graduates, please stand up, turn towards your family; and give a round of applause to your parents, friends and family. Un aplauso para los padres y familia.  Esto tambien es su graduacion!

 

Now it’s your turn to give back to everybody. Be even more productive in your communities. 

In the process of working and studying hard to get the knowledge you now have, you have also become more critically aware of the harsh realities and tragedies that regretfully exist throughout our communities, nation and the world at large.

A new leadership must emerge from your ranks.

Take on that responsibility on creating a better world!

I hope you agree with me, that our role is not to bang our chest. Our role is to open up the door for the rest.

In our current situation, just here in the Inland Empire, where so many people lack the skills, or a job, and when you do find a job you still can’t make ends meet; You lose hope.

You are educators and advocates.  We struggle—we breath hope into the future generations. We bring meaning —but with the emphasis on the “all”.

With our education comes that responsibility!  And the path to opportunity has always been the same.  It’s education.

It’s our job to change the paradigm.  Change the current paradigm where our kids aren’t able to read and write at where they are supposed to be. If we want to lead, if you want to educate, you got to act, you got to advocate, you got to speak up, you got to disrupt the paradigm, disrupt the status qous wherever you may be.

We got to be big and bold, we got to be as big and bold as the crisis.  Stand up for your students, stand up for the disenfranchised, stand up for immigrants, stand up for dreamers, stand up for the poor, stand up for those who can’t speak for themselves.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world, and if you can imagine it, you can achieve it; And if you can dream it, you can become it.

May all our dreams can come true—and you gain the courage to pursue them. Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, and live the life you have imagined.

I have that responsibility, you have that responsibility. Go forth with courage and optimism!

Thank you again President Kuncl and Dean Wall! 

Honorable Professor Lalas—"isang bagsak"—"One heart, one mind—If one falls, we all fall."

Salámat Po, Thank You, Tlazokamate.

Gracias, y felicidades de nuevo. Congratulations to each and every one of you. Love, peace, and justice to you all! Si se puede! El Presente es de lucho, pero el futuro nuestro!