Now, imagine that you were surrounded by acquaintances which were quickly becoming your friends – and the entire room had this feeling. In other words, we are all here for a reason. No matter how different we are, how different our lives have been up to this point, we all share certain values. We all have a story that has brought us to where we are.
My father and I have always had a tumultuous relationship. I’m exactly like him – proud and stubborn, afraid to make mistakes and needing to be, well, needed. I’ve come to understand the old man a little, but it wasn’t always that way. If there was anything that ever stuck with me, however, besides knowing exactly how not to treat your overly sensitive daughter, were the words my dad told me about (1) love and (2) a promise to be accountable to him personally for completing my education. There was nothing more important to him. Nothing. He said, “prometame me que vas a coronar.” What it means is to finish, go all the way and do right by me. Well, being the rebellious, snot-nosed replica of my father I was, I didn’t listen. I was going to do what I wanted to. So, I ran. I ran from my family and left my friends behind. I ended up flunking out of my first year at Colorado State University and would give up on education until a bad break up led me back home to Miami. I started working as a legal assistant and worked alongside a friend of mine who was doing the same thing I was – but he was going to college too. Then, I made a choice. I decided to do right by my dad, to be an example for my little brother (who’s not so little anymore), and to make my mother proud. I enrolled in Miami Dade College’s paralegal program as a nontraditional student – working full time in order to pay my own way through school. Now, I’m near graduation and only two semesters away from fulfilling a promise to my father I made when I was 16. In his own way, my dad was telling me that an education was the only way to have security in this life. That if he could go back and change things, he would do it too. He decided to be a father instead and gave that dream up – but I had a chance to do something better. Completing my education has opened so many doors of opportunity for me. I will be the first in my immediate family to graduate – one of only a handful in my extended family to do so. But I couldn’t have done it without perseverance, hard work and the support of family and friends I made along the way. After all my mistakes in my youth and the obstacles I’ve had to overcome to make graduation a reality there’s only one truth: if I can do it, so can you. We are all capable of making sacrifices to achieve something better. We are all blessed with a willing mind and the ability to persevere. Make a promise to yourself. Promise yourself that no matter what, you’re going to make it. You won’t let yourself down. Because you are more intelligent, beautiful, capable and worthy than you think you are.If only I could have given this speech live. You would’ve noticed how I choked up as I wrote it, then had to take a break before I could finish. I can’t make this stuff up. What I can do is own it. Learn to own yours. No matter how dark, how hurtful, how big of a scar. You are the person you are today because of it.
Now, to end this post, here’s Harvey Milk’s 1978 speech, “You Cannot Live on Hope Alone,” given before he was assassinated. Leave me a comment if you can relate to it, if it upsets you, if it inspires you to action.