Commencement is one of my most favorite events as I genuinely enjoy seeing students accomplish their goals. Included here are three of my favorite Commencement speeches. I hope you will take away as much inspiration from them as I have.
Caleb Martinez, former student of Grossmont College and UC Berkeley gave this Commencement Address at Grossmont College in 2015:
[Caleb begins by reading The Rose That Grew From Concrete by Tupac Shakur. The text of that poem is not included here as it is under copyright].
These words by Tupac Shakur have always resonated with me
In all honesty I shouldn’t be in front of you today! I grew up in poverty with no father. My own teachers used to tell me I would up dead or in jail. I spent more time on probation and behind jail cells then I spent in freedom. when I was 15 my brother was shot down in the streets . at the age of 17 I became a single father when my daughter was abandoned by her mother . I came into college at the age of 24 I had no job, I had no money, I had no educational foundation. – This was my concrete and these are my damaged petals.
Governing Board Members, Chancellor Miles, Interim President Flood, members of the faculty and staff of Grossmont College graduates, honored guests, and to my mother daughter family and friends. I stand before you today a EOPS club president, EOPS student worker, Club Member of the year,Student of Note, Latino Alliance member, honor graduate,commencement speaker who was accepted to UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, UCLA, and UC Berkeley. I have been offered and have accepted a full ride scholarship to UC Berkeley, the number one public institution in the world. Because I have tenacity and a desire not to die as a seed of a potential like so many others before me but to realize my dreams with hope and a will to reach the sun! None of us make it alone and I would not be here today without the love of my mother and daughter and support of my family and friends.
But today is not all about me
We are a generation of underdogs. Our millennial generation is often labeled by “experts” as the generation of entitlement. They say that this generation feels that they deserve everything without having to put forth any effort.I challenge this misconception and say we are the generation this world has been patiently waiting for. For the first time there has been an awakening and unlike others before we are more tolerant of each other’s, ideas, beliefs, religions, and cultures. We have taken notice to the disparity that exists in this world and recognize that not only the elite deserve things such as prosperity, health, and education, but we as children of the earth are entitled to it! We understand that if people are merely granted the opportunity to be successful that they will not only achieve success they will thrive and become a beacon of hope guiding the lost out of the darkness and despair of poverty.
As graduates of Grossmont College, we are testimony to what people can accomplish if just given the opportunity to do so. Community Colleges give birth to second chances and give wings to dreams that were never thought possible. I look in the crowd today and I see people cut from the same cloth. We are underdogs. I see immigrants, veterans, refugees, single parents, re-entry students, former foster youth, high school dropouts, First generation college students and so many other who have been invalidated or unappreciated. Somewhere down the line we have all been counted out, we have all been written off. But against all odds we stayed tenacious in the face of adversity and have overcome regardless of our conditions. We are proof that true beauty can come from a dismal environment. We can be that rose in the concrete.
Today I want to celebrate your tenacity and your will to reach the sun. But I also want to challenge you! To return to this place and other places where the concrete has made it difficult for roses to grow. Become the voice for the voiceless. After all we are unlike any generation that has come before and we will usher in a era of peace and opportunity for all and transform this world into a rose garden of prosperity. Which is not only what the world has been waiting for but it is what we are entitled to.
Thank You and Congratulations Grossmont Class of 2015!
Dr. Pearl Lopez, Extended Opportunity Programs and Services Counselor gave this Commencement Address at Grossmont College in 2015:
Hello Class of 2015!
When President Tim Flood asked me to be the commencement speaker, the first thing I said was, “why me?” Sylvia was in my office and she immediately said, “why not you”. You are a success story and a product of EOPS and Grossmont College. I then proceeded to freak out at the idea of standing before you all! So, all you students who frowned at me when I told you that you should take Public Speaking, this is why you need that class! You just never know!
I grew up in the projects on the East side of El Centro, CA. This used to be the segregated part of town so it was predominantly Latino and African American. My parents had 7 children and my father worked like a horse. When we woke up in the morning, he was already gone to work. When we went to bed at night, he wasn’t home yet. We only saw him on Sundays occasionally. My mother ran the entire household by herself week after week. I was inspired by their strong work ethic. My father first crossed the border illegally when he was only 12 years old because he wanted to help his family in Mexico. He crossed numerous times until an employer sponsored him and he became a legal resident. He only achieved a 3rd grade education and my mother achieved a 6th grade education.
My role models were my parents and following the example of their strong work ethic is what has gotten me this far. The challenge I faced was the fact that although I had role models for working hard, I did not have role models who had attained a higher education. So, after I barely graduated high school with a 2.0 gpa, I went to work at Denny’s. I was happy. I thought I was done. A few months later I took a chance and moved to Riverside with some friends. I was working different odd jobs and at one point, I was working the graveyard shift at a book binding company. My good work ethic kicked in and I did a great job. After about a week, I asked the supervisor for a permanent position. She was a middle-aged White woman. Very stern. She looked me up and down and said, “You need to go to college”. I told her I didn’t want to. I was good at my job and I wanted to stay there permanently. She said, “Pearl, you see all these employees around me? (They were mostly Latinos). I said “yes”. She said, “They have to help me read the job orders because I can’t read.” I remember being completely dumbfounded. I enrolled in college the following week.
I never excelled in college. School didn’t come “easy” for me. I struggled. When you are a first generation college student, how are you supposed to know what it means be a professional college student? I didn’t know. So I learned by trial and error. It took me 10 years to get my Bachelor’s degree.
You have achieved an amazing milestone today and you should celebrate it. This journey is one many students begin but never finish. I hope many of you are continuing on with your education. According to Excelencia in Education, in 2013 only 3% of Latinos earned a Master’s Degrees and less than 1% obtained a doctoral degree.
So today, as you move on to the next chapter of your lives, I’d like to share with you a few rules about life that will hopefully help you achieve your greatest potential. After all, it’s how this Latina from the projects made it this far.
First of all, interdependence, community. Learn to take advantage of the support around you. If somebody offers to help, don’t say no! Use the heck out of them! And with that, learn to ask for help. I was always so proud as a student. I thought smart people didn’t go to tutoring. So I would just flunk a class. Doesn’t make sense does it? I can guarantee you that I wouldn’t have made it this far if it hadn’t been for the support around me – (as a student, my EOPS counselors Sylvia and Janice Johnson), and throughout my journey, husband, my family, my friends, my co-workers and the Latino role models I met on this campus.
Second, don’t be a victim, be a creator. Sometimes life throws a curve at you. You decide whether you’re going to lay down and take it, or be a creator and overcome it. Nobody is going to do it for you.
Third, take responsibility for your life. If you go through life blaming everybody else, you’ll never achieve your goals. You’ll be waiting forever for somebody else to achieve them for you.
Finally, if you’re not uncomfortable or afraid, you’re not growing. Be willing to take risks in life. I had no idea that I would ever be able to get a Bachelor’s degree, let alone a Doctorate. How do you know what your potential is if you don’t try? So what if you’re afraid? So what if you fail? You learn, You grow and You move on.
My father passed away in 2006. I know he is looking down from heaven right now and is so proud of me. My mother is here today and she is always telling how proud she is of me. It is my honor to pay them both back for what they did for me. That has and always will be my inspiration and motivation.
Thank You! CONGRATULATIONS CLASS OF 2015!
Steve Jobs, entrepreneur, inventor, and co-founder of Apple gave this Commencement Address at Stanford University in 2005.
Video: Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address:
Transcript of Steve Jobs 2005 Stanford Commencement Address:
Licenses and Attributions:
Original content authored by Dave Dillon. License: CC BY: Attribution.
Photo of Pearl Lopez at commencement by Stephen Harvey. License: CC BY: Attribution.
All rights reserved content:
Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address. Authored by: Stanford University. Located at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=10&v=UF8uR6Z6KLc. License: All Rights Reserved. License Terms: Standard YouTube license.