Dr. Juliet V. Garcia
December 6, 2012
Mr. Chairman, members of the Board, and Chancellor, It is a pleasure to have a moment to talk to you today about the work that we've been doing to plan for this discussion.
When I was a new president, I sought out more experienced and successful presidents to discover from them, what the most important part of their job was. The president of Miami Dade College was one of those presidents that I interviewed. When I asked him what the most important part of his job was, he said to sustain the democracy of the United States. I told him I didn't understand, so he explained.
My job, he said, is to educate the next generation of native Floridians, Cubans, or Haitians. If I do that really well, they will become vested in the democratic system of this country. And then they will nurture, they will defend, and they will sustain the democracy of the United States of America. I returned to the Rio Grande Valley convinced that I had discovered, through that conversation, the most important nature of my own job as well.
Today, the Chancellor has laid out a vision of how to transform one of the fastest-growing regions of the State of Texas into one of the most productive, vibrant and well-educated contributors to the well-being of the entire state. We share his vision.
There is nothing wrong with the human capital of the Rio Grande Valley that a little bit of opportunity can't solve.
My own father was born in Monterrey. His family fled Mexico during the revolution in search of a new life. It took his family just one generation to re-establish itself. In our family, we now have doctors and lawyers, teachers and engineers, pharmists and nurses, accountants, business men and women and one university president. My father and his brothers would get together to talk at the next wedding or funeral. The discussion was never about what kind of house you lived in, or what kind of car you drove. It was about the education of your children, and it was to brag about the latest accomplishment. So the pressure on us was extrordinary to make sure that we got our father in on the bragging rights for what we had accomplished recently. That message was very powerful: the responsibility and the privilege of what we were able to take advantage of that they had not been able to take advantage of - and that was public affordable education. It took just one generation of access to make a difference.
Your action today opens up that window of opportunity for thousands of other students, who come to us having inherited their own parents' hopes of achieving the American Dream - that they might have opportunities to contribute, not only to their own families' well-being, but to that of a nation with a revered history of opening those doors for others. No greater allegiance is there, than to that which has given you a leg up; not a handout, but an opportunity to study hard, work hard, and to contribute to the wellbeing of others and succeed.
This action today, that you are contemplating, will serve to sustain our democracy.
But it also reaches to new heights. Because the Rio Grande Valley is perched at the epicenter of the Americas, just a few steps away from Texas' largest and most important trading partner. A strategic business model claims its advantage, and then it works to maximize it.
The Valley is strategically positioned to become the epicenter and the gatewat to the Americas. While we did not invent the global economy, we mean to take strategic advantage it. We are poised to be able to produce bi-literate graduates with complex cultural competency to deal in a global environment. With the well-earned and enviable brand of the UT System and the fast growing human capital hungry for opportunity in the Valley propelling our trajectory, we stand poised to innovate, to expand and to claim our unique and authentic advantage.
We cannot afford to be remembered for those that we excluded. Instead we should be remembered for those we included, who are working to make their generation the one that ends the vicious cycle of illiteracy and poverty.
We need our minority and at-risk students; we need them educated, bi-literate, and equipped with skills that can transcend state and national borders. We need them to teach our children and to design our homes. We need them to care for us when we're ill and to perform life-saving surgeries.
The fate of our children and of our country lies not in the past, but in its future; and the future is in your hands.
Once in a very great while, if we are privileged, we have the individual and collective opportunity to make a profound difference in our world. Your action is one of those rare and privileged.
I personally support and applaud the Chancellor's vision for the Rio Grande Valley; a vision that I have heard each of you attest to, personally, and have witnessed you seak to help make a reality. I ask for this Board to affirm it today before those of us gathered here and before the people of the great state of Texas.