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To the Graduating Class of 2010

Created: 14 May, 2010
Updated: 20 April, 2022
8 min read

First Person:
By Al Carlos Hernandez

    I am scheduled to be a keynote speaker for the seniors’ graduation banquet at a private Christian college were I teach public relations, media management and journalism. I am lauded for teaching innovative topics in real time so, consistent with that, here is an annotated version of the speech … which students will, not doubt, follow along on their iphones – while they are pretending to be listening – when I am actually giving the speech.

Honored Guests,

    I am so happy to be here tonight.

    Last year you had a Christian comedian which, in some circles, may be considered redundant.

    This year they did the next best thing – they invited me, a Pentecostal.

    I was asked once if I was a “holy roller.” I said: a holy rock and roller.

    I may have spent too much time in the music business, a fact to which my Facebook pictures will attest.

    I have to say that I can truly relate to the urban, and often times ethnic, college student. As many of you know I am “ethnic.”

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    Some of you don’t know I was born and raised in the housing projects in San Francisco. We were poor and we knew it. We didn’t like it.

    My dad, a practicing Catholic, insisted that we stay out of trouble. We were not afraid of the police. We were afraid of the wrath of George, my dad. He  believed in time’s up, not times out.

    Many of our urban families today are in disarray because the men are cowards and run away from responsibility.

    I could have used my impoverished ethnic early years as a crutch to make excuses about not getting any breaks to succeed. We, my siblings and I, did not.

    My older brother, who shared the bunk bed with me, went on to become the presiding Superior County Judge here in Alameda County – one of the highest judicial offices in the state. He was asked once about his upbringing by a well known police chief. My brother replied, “3140 Army Street,  Apartment #226.” That said it all.

    I was not the greatest student in the world. I always loved to write. I remember a journalism teacher once telling me, “I didn’t know you people could write so good.” I replied, “Write so well.”

    My high school was over run by hippies – and those where the staff members. Comic Woody Allen said that his high school was a place for emotionally disturbed teachers, and I’ve got to high five him on that tip.

    I was the very first cholo/vato loco at the community college. They would dig holes in the gravel parking lot so my low-rider would get stuck and I would be late for class.

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    Well, that’s what I told them anyway.

    As a student athlete, I was helped immensely by my coach who pulled a few strings and got me accepted to Cal State Hayward – not Cal State East Bay. There I made an alliance with the feminists who planned to take control of the student newspaper from the radical student union. I become editor in chief and earn my BA degree – the first Latino ever to get a degree in Mass Communications at that university. And for you student athletes: I was a four year varsity letterman. And for you folks my age: I cannot fit into my varsity letterman jacket.

    Graduating from college is a different personal experience for everyone.

    For some it’s like riding a bike without training wheels for the first time. Guess what? You’re going to crash a couple of times.

    For some it’s like driving a car alone for the first time. And after raising five teenagers into adulthood I can say: they are going to crash.

    For some, graduating from college is like recovering from a crash: recovering from a relationship or career that failed, or maybe from an economy that made your last job obsolete.

    Once you have graduated from college you are forever someone else, someone of major accomplishment. Some of you will change the legacy of your entire family by your recent success! Now the real work begins…

    Latest statics show that college age folk of today will have eleven jobs before the time they are 37 years old!

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    90% of the jobs available in 2010 had not been invented yet in 2004 when many of you started your college career!

    The country of India has more 4.0 students than all of the students in America.

    In a few short years China will be the number one English speaking country in the world.

    Facebook, a global community in itself, has over 300 million subscribers.

    A college degree is a must, but a degree without ganas, want, purpose, or desire is a very expensive piece of paper.

    Once, after many years in media, I found myself working at a tire store. My 40th birthday was on a Sunday and I wanted to accompany my family to church on that day. I asked the boss weeks in advance to give me my birthday Sunday off. He just said, “No.” While sitting on a stack of tires outside the store that day I prayed, “Lord this couldn’t get any worse for me!” Then a huge semi pulled up filled with tires. I had to unload them all by myself.

   Life ain’t cute folks and for those of you who don’t know, life isn’t fair either so just used to it. You need to realize that there is no work that is beneath you if you are to become an adult of real character. I can still change tires, sell a motorcycle, or paint a house.

   There are many young people today who do not know how to work. Through the many incarnations I’ve experienced throughout my life, I have had high profile media jobs and won big awards, including a Grammy nomination.

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   Back in my day we were very passionate about social issues and injustices. My credo was Knowledge is Power. I studied Mass Media because I believed that if people knew the truth, they would act responsibly and fix many of the social ills.

   I know now that there is no political solution to the ills of this world. The cure resides in the transformation of our hearts through a relationship with the Living God through Our Lord Jesus Christ.

   I wanted to leave you with something I took from my daily devotional by Sarah Young. This says it all for me:

   “You can achieve the victorious life through living in deep dependence on God. People usually associate victory with success; not falling or stumbling, not making mistakes. But those who are successful in their own strength tend to go their own way, forgetting about God. It is through problems and failure, weakness and neediness that you learn to rely on The Creator of all things.

   True dependence is not simply asking God to bless what you have decided to do. It is coming to God with an open mind and heart, inviting The Most High, to plant His desires in you. He may infuse within you a dream that seems far above your reach. You know that in yourself you cannot achieve such a goal. Thus begins your journey of profound reliance on The Creator.

   It is a faith walk, taken one step at a time, leaning on God as much as you need, for whatever you need. This is not a path of continual success but of multiple failures. However, each failure is followed by a growth spurt, nourished by increased reliance on The Most High God! Enjoy the blessedness of a victorious life, through deepening your dependence on God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

   Isn’t that beautiful?

   I look at my life full circle now. I know that what the enemy meant for evil, God meant for good. I have said many times that in my lifetime I have done a million things wrong so that I can teach one thousand things right.

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   My favorite verse in the Bible is Proverbs 16:3 “Commit the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed.”

   That plan has come true, right here and right now for me today.

   Thank you.

Edited, By Susan Aceves

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