Commencement Address -- 2002

June 15, 2002





Margie Yu
Public Affairs Spec.
(323) 343-3047


of Events

U.S. Treasurer Addresses
Cal State L.A.'’s Class of 2002

Los Angeles, CA – United States Treasurer Rosario Marin (Cal State L.A. alumna) was the speaker at the festive and colorful 55th Commencement exercises at California State University, Los Angeles this morning. The following is her commencement address:

“Thank you all very much. You have no idea how delighted and excited I am to be here at my Alma Mater CSULA. I love you! Some of the fondest memories that I carry with me are special moments of my student life at this campus. I am sure that you will also leave today with special memories that will be with you for the rest of your life.

Truth be told, there is not much I can say to what you have already said so eloquently with your actions over the last several years. Through your hard work and dedication, you have arrived at a great milestone in your life. You have studied and sacrificed, suffered set backs and experienced triumphs. And now, at the end of several years of both financial and intellectual investment, you have come to this moment. In just a few minutes, you will no longer be students, but teachers, engineers and business professionals. And on behalf of the President of the United States, I congratulate all 5,126 of you in obtaining your diploma, which you so rightfully deserve.

It is fitting that your families are here with you as well. They too deserve the glory of seeing you graduate, because this is also their accomplishment! Thank you, parents! Thank you friends and relatives, teachers and counselors for helping to make dreams come true!

I am so proud of all of YOU!

I can tell you from my own experience that this is the land of opportunity… and with your diploma you will be able to unlock its magnificent doors.

Would you believe? When my parents brought me here from Mexico, I did not want to come. I was only 14 years old and thought that it was the worst thing that could happen to me.

To make matters worse, in the 10th grade I was given an IQ Test. Back then, before some of your time, everybody had to take this test. A score of 100 being the average; mine came back with a score of 27. My friends, and even my teacher laughed at me. But I decided that the only thing the low score represented was the fact that I did not speak English. Far from making me angry or upset… It gave me the resolve: I would learn English to the best of my ability… and I did. Three years later I graduated high school in the top 20 with honors.

No one told me about scholarships or grants to attend college and I had to work to help support my family. But I believed that education was important; so, while working full time, I attended East Los Angeles Community College for four years to get my two-year degree, then spent three more years here at Cal State to finish my bachelors at night. It took me a while but I can tell you, I am so proud of my diploma.

At the same time, I was moving up in the ranks at City National Bank where I had started as the assistant to the receptionist. Six years later, I was about to be named Assistant Vice-President; I had started my Master’s Degree here at CSULA and thought my life was absolutely beautiful!

But God had other plans. My life changed in the most dramatic way. My first son Eric was born not just with Down Syndrome but with many other complications.

That’s when I heeded the call to public service.

I gave up my career, quit my Master’s Program and sold my house to take care of Eric, now a handsome 16-year old young man.

I can tell you it was not easy. Many nights I went to sleep hoping that I would not wake up… but I would. In my community, we often say that God sends us blessings in disguise and I kept telling God to “Please go bless someone else”… But little did I know that my life had been transformed…

You see it was through my education and skills that I acquired at CSULA that I was able to confront the challenges of raising my son with Down Syndrome. And it’s through education that Americans like you, will be able to face the great challenges brought home to us in the aftermath of September 11.

You are graduating at a very special time in the life of our nation and in the life of our world. You are the first graduates of the 9-11 generation. You are the first professionals of a very different America, and a very different world.

It still seems unimaginable. Although months have now passed since the September 11 attacks, the horror is no less stunning, and the pain no more overcome. The shock is now replaced by sadness; the grief by anger. Still, a wounded nation looks back and wonders how it all happened.

Yes, it is true… we have witnessed the true cost of the tragedy. Children without parents…husbands and wives without spouses… neighbors without friends. We have lost so much. Yet, we have also gained much.

This tragedy was the worst of evil, but it has brought out the best of America. We have seen courage and compassion…love and leadership… perseverance and patriotism like we have never seen before.

Time will pass, and our nation will never forget that morning when thousands of innocent, unsuspecting human beings were murdered. Many Americans experienced a personal loss in the events of September 11. And every American waits on the day that justice is delivered, as it will be.

In the meantime, just as the birth of my son transformed my life, my prayer is that the events of September 11 will help transform America. Our history teaches us that just as fire refines silver and makes it purer; suffering produces strength and challenges breed character.

I believe this event has brought us closer to each other, and nearer to God. I pray we will continue to be more united and less cynical, more compassionate and less callused, more determined and less afraid.

America has been so blessed. And the Scriptures tell us that “Of him to whom much is given, much is expected.” As Americans, we’ve always known we have been given much. But September 11 reminded us that much is expected of us, as well.

I want to encourage each one of you today to remember the words of Winston Churchill—we make a living by what we get; but we make a life by what we give. You have a responsibility to leave here and not only make a profit, but make a difference. And while some people spend their lives building careers, I hope each one of you will spend your careers building lives.

And that is the essence of what I want to say today—that success in life means service in life. And I encourage you to give, to love, to serve. There are two kinds of service in particular I want to talk to you about—service to our country and service to our world.

First, I want to encourage you to serve our country.

It’s been said that public service is not limited to public office. And the events since September 11th have shown how true, that is. Countless of selfless Americans have taken up the cause.

No one told firefighters in California and Texas to go to ground zero in New York and help out—they just did it… No one told doctors in Florida and Missouri, to travel to Washington to help treat victims of the Pentagon plane crash—they just did it... And no one told Americans in every corner of America to put up flags and send up prayers for the victims and their families—they just did it.

And why did they do it? Why do we as Americans care so much for the families of New York and Washington?

We do it because we’re Americans. And we know that being American requires certain things.

I bring a unique perspective to this issue. Like so many of you I am an American by choice. I am an immigrant to this country. And one thing I know about immigration is this—you can go to Germany, and you can become a German citizen. But, you can’t really become a German. You can go to Japan, and you can become a Japanese citizen, but you can’t really become Japanese. But here in America, you can become not only an American citizen, but a full-blooded American.

How is this possible? Because who we are is not defined by what we look like or where we were born. It’s based on believing in the principles laid down by the Founding Fathers of this great nation.

America is such a magnificent place, a place like no other in the world. A place where every race is welcomed, every religion is practiced, and every person is treated with respect and dignity.

We are Americans not because of who we are but because of what we believe. Thomas Jefferson gave the most famous and most eloquent definition of these principles when he wrote that Americans believe we were created by God and given the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” These were simple principles, profoundly given to us by God.

But these rights are as precious as they are fragile. They must be protected by each generation of Americans. And that means all of you have a solemn responsibility to protect and defend the American way of life.

And that leads me to the second service I want to promote—service to our world.

In the aftermath of 9-11, we were able to focus on what is important—the permanent things of life, like family, faith, and freedom. It often takes an ominous dark night to truly see the magnificence of the light of the stars in the sky. And that’s what happened after 9-11.

America learned an important lesson on September 11. It’s a lesson as old as the scriptures and as recent as the morning newspaper—there is evil. It is an active, aggressive part of our world. And if given the chance, it will wreak havoc on our lives, on our nation, and on our world. But there is another lesson. It too is found in the scriptures—there is good. It is a gift, a powerful force that can change lives, touch hearts, and save souls. We can use the goodness of our nation to warm the cold of life…giving hope to the hopeless, help to the helpless and voice to the voiceless.

We have seen how much the world needs our leadership. We have seen it in the good we have done in Afghanistan where girls can now attend school, and citizens are once again taking part in their government. This is all because America has been willing to export not only its products; but its principles.

And each one of you can help. You can help create a better world and a better future. The President has launched a new initiative called the USA Freedom Corps. This program will enlist the services of people just like you, in the cause of serving others, both here and abroad. I hope you will consider committing yourselves to serving in the Freedom Corps, or the Peace Corps, or in some other meaningful position of service. Because only in giving to others do we receive the richest blessings of life.

And our world needs our help. Let’s show them that we are a nation of love…of compassion…of service.

America is a place where ordinary people can do extraordinary things. It’s a country where everyday people can go as far and as fast as their dreams will take them. It’s a country where an immigrant can become its Treasurer.

So as you leave Cal State Los Angeles, I hope you realize that you are now prepared to answer your own call.

I urge you to…follow your dreams… But always remember that those who will lead will be those who will serve. Commit yourself to service…to our country and to our world.

Go out, serve the most needy, the most vulnerable and the most fragile. And know in your heart that performing your duty with the highest integrity and love of mankind is indeed the greatest Gift of all.

It is my wish that throughout your professional career you experience the sacred joy of knowing that you are giving your time and talents in ways that are profoundly useful to those you serve.

Savor every moment of your great triumph—this graduation! Bask in our congratulations. Then go out there and show the world that you are truly made of the American fabric… heart, soul, determination and faith.

Once again, Congratulations to all of you. May God shower you with peace, faith, and grace. And may God Bless, the greatest country in the world, America.”

U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin also received a CSU/Cal State L.A. Honorary Doctor of Laws at this graduation.


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