Thank you, Dr. Juarez.
President Wright, members of the board of Trustees, distinguished faculty, staff, and friends: aloha and good evening!
First of all, I would like to thank those at Hawai‘i Pacific University who gave me the honor to be one of the valedictory speakers tonight.
When I started learning English as my third language, it was not my favorite subject in school. During my first trip to London at age 12, I lost all my papers and money. I felt frustrated to be surrounded by people who did not speak my language. But as days passed by, I got to discover a new culture that amazed me.
After many trips around the world, I met people with different horizons. As I would listen to their stories and share experiences, I realized how important it is to broaden our minds about people and their culture. This feeling was reinforced when I arrived at Hawai‘i Pacific University 2 years ago; the diversity of its students reminds me of the world on a smaller scale.
As years went on, I realized that teaching is a way to open up to people’s cultures; I believe that sharing and passing knowledge onto others are key values in our society. Teaching is an amazing and powerful action that can only be achieved if teachers and students alike work together, in a joint effort. As a Hawaiian proverb says: ho‘okahi ka ‘ilau like ana, which translates as “wield the paddles together;” HPU has been our canoe for years, and it still is for some of you. If we are here, it is because we all want to fulfill something that means a lot personally, but that can only be accomplished in a team effort, which will eventually improve the community.
Finally, I would like to extend my thanks to my family back home, especially my mom, dad, sister, and grandmother. They have been doing a lot for me, and their continuous support and encouragement gave me the strength to go forward in my studies and in my life. I also would like to dedicate this speech to my aunt, sitting in the audience, without whom I wouldn’t be here; a retired English teacher, she is the one who taught me my first English words, who was in London with me at the time of the incident, and tonight here I am, delivering a speech, in English, in front of a crowd of graduate students. Tatie, merci pour tout! (Auntie, thank you for everything).
So to all of you fellow graduates, I say congratulations! I wish you all the best for your future. Enjoy this unique evening.
Thank you. Mahalo nui loa.