Getting Higher (Education)

Janice LOBO Sapigao

Photo credit:  Daniel Joseph Aniciete

Photo credit: Daniel Joseph Aniciete

Where do graduation speeches go after they are shared?

In her high school graduation speech, Larissa Martinez, Class of 2016 Valedictorian of McKinney Boyd High School of Dallas, Texas, stated that, “I am one of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows.” She continued, “By sharing my story I hope to convince you all that if I was able to break every stereotype based on what I’m classified as – Mexican, female, undocumented, first-generation, low-income – then so can you.” This speech will go on to live – will be referenced by educators re-discovering their purpose, will offend conservative voters and politicians misunderstanding her demands. Her speech will live virally on the Internet. This speech, this speaker – she will go on to college at Yale University.

In a tweet, fellow Class of 2016 high school Valedictorian from David Crockett High School in Austin, Texas, Mayte Lara shared, “Valedictorian, 4.5GPA, full tuition paid for at UT, 13 cords/medals, nice legs, oh and I’m undocumented.” Though not a speech per se, it’s a statement evocative enough start a hashtag and upset folks’ monolithic American Dreams that do not include students of color who are making their dreams a step towards their freedom. This tweet will bring freedom, and it will manifest power.

These speeches highlight what is unlike their circumstances: Unacceptably low levels of students of color, low-income, English language learners (ELL), and students with disabilities are graduating from high school. And this is also the case nationwide for college graduation rates. These statistics are actively, intensely, and strategically being combatted and changed every damn day. This will not happen forever.

When students from marginalized communities and communities of struggle graduate, we go. We dress up, we drive far to see them, we slip into lines and through crowds, and we wait, and wait, and wait until they finally appear. And if you are ever invited to be a speaker, you (should) prepare like a professional writer, and practice in front of yourself, mirrors, and people. It took students years to get there, remember this. Where will your speech go after it is shared? Hopefully, if your honesty, struggle, story, and hard work matches their purpose, it will stay with them forever.

In this Special Issue Getting Higher (Education) educators and artists Kimberly Davalos, Paolo Espiritu, Jason Magabo Perez, and Jessica Sabogal share with you their speeches from various educational events. In this issue, you’ll find the transcripts from a Keynote Speech at San Francisco State University’s Counseling MS Program, the Keynote Speech on a San José High School Senior Tradition, the Senior Sunrise; a commencement speech at UC San Diego’s 2010 Pilipina/o Graduation, and the Keynote Speech at Stanford University's 2014 Raza Day High School Conference, respectively.

Janice LOBO Sapigao, Associate Editor

Paolo Espiritu

Keynote Speech on a HS Senior Tradition, the Senior Sunrise.

Jessica Sabogal

Keynote Speech at Stanford University's Raza Day High School Conference

Jason Magabo Perez

#Zack Morris is special and especially relevant to talk about at a Pilipina/o graduation ceremony. Commencement speech at UC San Diego Pilipino Graduation

Kimberly Davalos

Keynote Speech at SFSU's Counseling MS Program

Photos credit: Daniel Joseph Aniciete

Featured UC Davis '16 Graduates: Daniel Joseph Aniciete, Alexi Joyce Balaguer, Leslie Aniciete, Miguel Raphael Bagsit