For the past two years, Foothill has been my sanctuary; the nurturing environment that was previously missing; my temple of empowerment. For the first time in my life I feel prepared for what lies ahead. I am armed for battle. I have the proper tools with which to build my house.
I feel honored to congratulate each of you at this milestone in your life. This Associate Degree is not just any Associate Degree, it is a Foothill College Associate Degree.
What makes this degree different from all the others? It signifies that you have that extra bit of determination it takes to succeed in this world - and I'd like the opportunity to prove my point.
If I may so bold as to ask for your participation, I'd like you to look over your left shoulder - What do you see?
That's right - the HILL.
I don't know about you, but every morning as I made my way up that hill, I felt the hardest part of my day was already over! Statistics? Biology? ...I could handle anything - After all, I made it up that hill, didn't I?
By the way, for those of you who figured out a way to make it up that hill without climbing it, well, I won't be surprised to see you in the White House someday, or perhaps picketing outside the White House someday.
What I hope you take with you today is the realization that there are many more hills we will face in our lives. We had to overcome obstacles to get this far, and we will undoubtedly face more, especially if we are determined to do great things.
Most of us tend to underestimate the contributions we can make to this world. Sometimes we hold ourselves hostage to our pasts and to the pasts of our ancestors. We are afraid to go for what we truly want in our lives because no precedent exists. We settle for what others say we can and cannot have. We listen to people that tell us we "can't" until we believe them and start repeating those negative thoughts to ourselves. If I had continued to listen to those who told me things could not be done, I would not be standing here before you today.
Don't listen when people tell you "It can't be done." Do what you did when you were a kid - remember when you wanted something and your mom said "no" so you asked your dad? and if they both said no, you went to your grandma, and if that didn't work, you asked your brother, or a sister, or a friend, and then you went with your new found alliance, to present a better argument?
Well, that is the strategy of change - keep asking those who are in authority until one of them gives you the answer you want to hear.
Neglect the naysayers.
Keep believing in yourself.
Raise your expectations.
When you raise expectations of yourself, you create new spaces that will be filled with the product of your creativity. YOU have the capacity to set new standards for others to follow.
And I ask that you keep in mind that although you should value what it is that you have already learned to do, don't forget that you are still in the process of growing. Don't settle - work hard to discover your special talents - this is not selfish behavior - for by bringing yourself to your fullest potential, by sharing your special gifts with the world - you will enrich the lives of others - and that is the most unselfish act you can perform.
This will not be an easy task.
The poet, e. e. cummings said " to be nobody but yourself, in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else - means to fight the hardest battle which any human being, can fight; and never stop fighting."
The process of self examination is the time when we feel most insecure. In the times we feel most insecure, we seek the approval of others. It is when we seek the approval of others when we are most likely to wander from our path of self realization. This is when we need to have courage and perseverance.
I am confident that you will succeed in your quest.
You are smart enough to know that some things are worth the extra effort. You have proven this by choosing to get this degree from Foothill, by climbing that hill until you reached your goal.
So, my fellow graduates, when you go out into that world, and are faced with whatever challenges life thrusts before you, know that you are prepared. Just glance at your wall at your Foothill College Degree and say to yourself. "I can handle this, I made it up that hill, didn't I?"
- Mari Tamburo
Foothill College, Los Altos Hills, CA
June 12, 1996