A Chicago Public Schools 2012 Commencement Speech

On Friday, 198 students graduated from Hancock High School on the Southwest Side.  The ceremony’s theme was a quote by Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, an internationally recognized brain surgeon who came to this country as an undocumented immigrant and farm worker.

“You can all fulfill your dreams as long as you believe in your heart that you can do it.  And that is the greatest challenge.”

The closing speech was written and delivered by Fatima Salgado, who will one day be a doctor.

Graduates, we end our celebration tonight by recognizing that the unknown is inevitable and so is our transition from youth to adulthood. Both are frightening for us—and for our parents or guardians.

When we were children, the future didn’t seem as intimidating as it does now because of our relentless motivation to enjoy our childhood. Now, we have to use the morals, the lessons that our guardians provided for us so we can make responsible decisions. The future is now, and we must get our act together—now—that we are legally considered adults. We have made it this far; now we need to believe in ourselves so that we can continue on to higher education or a career.

Is it really that difficult to find in ourselves the motivation and perseverance to keep fighting for a brighter future? All it takes is to believe that it is possible—that it is possible for us to achieve our goal, our dream.  Our past is crucial for our future.  We must use our past experiences to transform ourselves into an intellectual, responsible man or intellectual, responsible woman.

Parents and guardians, my mother told me that when she first took hold of me as a newborn, she knew then and there that I had a lot to offer.  As parents and guardians, you have to use your affection to support these accomplished graduates. You must believe in these young adults and guide them to make wise decisions.

We are your babies. We still have those eyes that you would look at with worry whenever we cried for a hug or asked for a simple gesture to let us know you were still there. We need you now more than ever, but we also need to grow as people on our own.

We cannot continue to depend on you for everything, no matter how much you still want us to. Help us teach ourselves to be more independent. Teach us to be our own person.

I believe that a person who endures unexpected challenges and hardship, yet emerges with an undefeated smile and a modest character, is a great leader. We must believe that we can be like those leaders and surpass what life gives us.

Believing in ourselves is the greatest challenge.  But believing in ourselves can also be our greatest accomplishment.  Thank you.

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