Graduates of the Class of 2011 at California State University, Dominguez Hills were celebrated on May 20 with words of hope and encouragement. Remarks by President Mildred García and keynote speakers at the day’s four ceremonies focused on their hopes for the new graduates as agents of change in a world full of social and economic challenges. García commended the Class of 2011 and reminded them to thank family, friends, professors, and all of those who supported them through academic success. She also charged them with three things to remember as they enter the working world as alumni of CSU Dominguez Hills.
“One, continue learning,” said García. “This degree will open doors for you, but we all know that the world is changing rapidly. Secondly, give back. We all know that within your chosen profession, you will be doing such great work. We ask you to reach out and help others. Tell them how important it is to get a college degree. If each of us just took one person, grabbed them by the hand and brought them to college, what a wonderful world this would be.
“And three, remember your alma mater, CSU Dominguez Hills. Today, you become alumni. You are our points of pride, you are our ambassadors. Come back and help us reach newer heights. Go out and continue to make us proud, go out and make a difference in the world.”
Thalia Gomez, president of Associated Students, Inc. celebrated her new bachelor’s degree in Chicana/o studies. She commended her classmates for raising the bar for their fellow Americans by earning their diplomas and charged them with not only professional success, but ensuring the success of others.
“According to the 2010 census, only 28 percent of all Americans receive bachelor’s degrees,” said Gomez. “But all of you here today, through your hard work and dedication, are changing that. I know you will all do excellent in the next steps of your lives. Whether you go to graduate school, become a doctor, a professor, or a lawyer…no matter what you do, make sure you give back to your communities so that others can have the same opportunities you have had.
“Remember that your own experiences have been shaped by those who came before you,” Gomez continued. “Continue to be agents of change, for yourselves, for your families and for your communities.”
Khaleah Bradshaw (Class of ’08, B.A., English literature), vice president of academic affairs, Associated Students, Inc., encouraged the graduates to pursue advanced degrees and remain engaged in their alma mater and their communities. This spring, she graduated with her master’s degree in Africana studies and English literature.
“Now that you have made it to this point, there are three things you need to do,” she said in her address to the graduates of the College of Business Administration and Public Policy. “One is to pursue a master’s or doctorate degree. Two, register with the Alumni Association and support your university so that other students can have the same opportunities that were afforded to you. And number three, find a career where you can give back to your community.”
Dr. John Tracy (Class of ’76, B.S., physics) greeted the graduates and audience of the College of Professional Studies with the first keynote address of the day, and was bestowed with an honorary degree of Doctor of Science by the CSU during the College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences/College of Extended and International Education ceremony. The chief technology officer and senior vice president of engineering, operations and technology at The Boeing Company set a scene of success for graduates by recalling the history of his company’s founder, William Boeing, who witnessed the Air Meet of 1910 on the very land on which CSU Dominguez Hills sits.
“In the 95 years since he sat right here, the company that [William] Boeing founded grew to be the world’s largest aerospace company, with customers in more than 90 countries and 160,000 employees,” said Tracy. “And it all started with one young person sitting close to where you’re sitting right now, wondering how he could make the world a better place. And so, graduates, today marks the beginning of an era in your lives when you can demonstrate to the world, that you can, as Bill Boeing said, ‘build a better one.’”
Tracy told the graduates that although they were about to enter a world of many economic, social, and environmental challenges, they would be equipped to meet them.
“These are the types of challenges that require the insight, determination, and leadership of people such as you, our graduates,” Tracy said. “Find something to work on that captures your imagination. Let any disappointment spur you on to pursue your goal. Know that you can achieve absolutely anything that you set your mind to and that you can and should work to make the world a better place.”
Dr. Wanda Austin, president and CEO of The Aerospace Corporation, delivered the keynote address at the ceremony for the College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences and the College of Extended and International Education. She commented on the mutually beneficial relationship between the university and her company, which has hired more than 100 employees from CSU Dominguez Hills graduates.
“Graduates of Cal State Dominguez Hills are obviously high achievers and hard workers. And that’s what our nation needs,” Austin said. “Knowing the strengths and abilities of Cal State Dominguez Hills graduates as I do, I’m convinced that each of you will be distinguished alumni in your own right. I see the drive and determination in the faces before me today. That drive and determination will be needed to sustain our goal of leadership. We face a future when strong, decisive leaders will be needed because there are many challenges to be addressed.”
The first African American female to be named a CEO in the aerospace and defense industry, Austin highlighted the 50th anniversary of CSU Dominguez Hills by comparing the challenges faced by the nation today to those of the early 1960s.
“Fifty years ago, we were immersed in civil rights issues, proliferation of nuclear weapons, escalating crime rates, and a president’s mandate to walk on the moon by the end of the decade,” said Austin. “Today, the issues are different but just as compelling: natural disasters, such as those experienced in Japan, man-made ecological disasters like the Gulf oil spill, serious budget deficits, terrorism, wars, no-fly zones in Libya to address humanitarian crises, and an education crisis across the United States. We also have a mandate by another president to develop new approaches and new strategies in a bid to increase the reach and reduce the cost of human space flight.
“The challenges of the two ages are different, but they have the same potential for awe and wonderment, for accomplishment,” she continued. “They represent an opportunity to excel and improve the world. There is now, as there was then, a need for our best and brightest to embrace the challenges and be the inclusive leaders of the future.”
Judge Scott Gordon (Class of ’80, B.S., public administration), who served as keynote speaker for the College of Arts and Humanities ceremony, was on hand to congratulate his son Joseph Gordon, who earned his bachelor’s degree in negotiation, conflict resolution and peace building, and his classmates. He spoke for the audience full of parents, siblings, significant others, and all those who supported the graduates on their journey toward a higher education.
“We are awed by who you have become,” he said. “We are overwhelmed by how hard you have worked to get here. You’ve inspired us, you humble us, and we love you tremendously.”
Gordon, who serves as assistant supervising judge in the Family Law Department of the Los Angeles Superior Court, said that while clichés about the journey ahead are standard in commencement speeches, the stories they portray are true. As an undergraduate, he had looked forward to a career in law enforcement but found that “the path from Dominguez [Hills] goes wherever you want to go and will go to places that you could never have conceived you will be.”
“The journey has taken me to all over this country, it has allowed me to teach law school, it has taken me to Prague to teach judges from Iraq on how to build democratic courts, it has taken me to the killing fields of Rwanda to help the government try to bring [democracy] there,” said Gordon. “There are places that I never could have foreseen that I would be; there are places that I couldn’t have gone without Dominguez Hills.”
Gordon warned graduates against letting any obstacles stand in the way of their success, despite the challenging professional climate they were about to enter.
“You are graduating at a very interesting, challenging, and I’m going to argue, a very wonderful time. There’s one thing to be cautioned of as you go forward, and that is the word ‘no.’” You’re here in spite of hearing ‘no.’” There were people who told you that you couldn’t get here, you couldn’t finish, you don’t work hard enough. But you ignored that and pushed through and you are here.
“In many ways, the road to success is just like driving on the 405,” Gordon noted. “There are a lot of people on there with you, a lot of people in your way. It’s easy to get off and real hard to get back on. If you haven’t prepared, you’re probably going to stall. But if you keep at it and keep your course true, you’re going to get there.”
Finally, Janet Murguía, president and CEO of National Council of La Raza, addressed the graduates of the College of Business Administration and Public Policy. After receiving an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from the CSU, the leader of the largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the nation shared stories of her parents, who emigrated from Michoacán and raised her and her six siblings—two of whom are federal judges—to believe in the promise of the American dream through acquiring a college education.
“I share my parents’ story because I believe that they are primarily responsible for what I and my brothers and sisters have been able to do,” said Murguía. “This is an extraordinary nation when you think about it. Two people with very few means from a small town in Mexico, who worked very hard, sacrificed much, and dedicated themselves to the education of their family and service to community—I am a witness to and in many ways, evidence of their American dream. I have seen it come true for me and my family and if it can come true for me, it can come true for each and every one of you.”
Murguía said that achieving a college education afforded the graduates the ability “to chart your own course and write your own American story.” She also encouraged them to help others to gain the same ability.
“On a day like today, you must know that the world is a better place because you are here,” she said. “As you go forward on your journey and in your life, my hope is that you will help to open the door to the American dream a little wider so that others can see that their dreams are also possible.”
For archived footage of commencement at CSU Dominguez Hills, visit youtube.com/csudhtv.