Jessica Franco-Morales’ Convocation Remarks to the Class of 2017

In my world people are not judged by the color of their skin, but by the value of their wisdom. In my world the notion of the ‘cult of domesticity’ is obsolete as both men and women share the fervor to succeed and thus are granted the same status. In my world maps with borders that divide and in turn segregate people by race, religion or dialect do not exists. In my world there is but one race—the human race. In my world rich history lives in every soul, but instead of fostering life long rivalries and wars, history galvanizes societies. Most importantly, in my world people pull each other up rather than push each other down. Together, individuals pioneer the unknown equipped with helmets of inquiry, boots of courage, hatchets of bravery and most critically the common goal of innovation.

I know some may think that my world, or my utopia is just that, perfect but imaginary. I hate to admit that my actual world is far from perfect, but it is not until now that I have realized why; the answer is right in front of me– literally. I began my sentence with the words “ I hate to admit,” thus this is the source of not only my dilemma, but also the dilemma of others around the world. For fear of facing reality, many run, hide or become numb to the problems of society and the world.

Being a woman, most importantly a woman of color, I experienced many adversities while I was growing up. Whether it was not being able to identify myself within my community or always trying to go above and beyond the expectations only to be merely noticed, life always seemed to be more difficult for me. The community where I grew up is predominately white, and growing up I struggled to balance the customs of my friends’ families with the strong, Mexican traditions of my family. I mean trying to explain to my friends that my grandparents picked strawberries in the Californian fields for a living rather than for fun was a quite difficult. Telling my friends that I had more than twenty cousins and that weekend barbeques were not ‘parties,’ but merely family get-togethers, was always and adventure. Oh and my favorite…attempting to convince my parents that sleepovers were commonplace. This conversation, although interesting, unfortunately always ended the same, and that is with a big fat no!  Regardless of the situation, I cannot say I had an easy, perfect life, but I can say I realized that facing my struggles and overcoming obstacles head on is far better than attempting to avoid or ignore hardships. Sometimes, I was so busy trying to hide the fact that my family struggled that I failed to appreciate my parents’ efforts towards prosperity. Looking back, I now know that my battle scars are proof of my perseverance, but most importantly they are reminders of why I am the person I am today. The young girl who was once ashamed of her upbringing and embarrassed of her culture is now proud of her diverse background and is an advocate for non-traditional ideologies. However, what I value the most is that my world has made me realize that one must not be complacent and settle for the current status quo, rather, one must take control of one’s future.

 

The honor bestowed upon all of us as future badgers, carries immeasurable weight and responsibility. The legacy of past prodigies along with the high standards set by current innovators is cemented within every building, chanted at every football game, and reflected through the world class professors on campus. By attending this prestigious university, we all are granted the same opportunity to pursue our own prosperity but most importantly to change the world—our world.

 

When I first accepted my admission into UW- Madison I underestimated the extent of Madison’s honorable reputation. Not only had I been accepted into the twenty third best university in the world, but also I had automatically joined a society made up of scholars, innovators, volunteers, and soldiers that spanned over every single continent. What is most impressive to me however, is the fact that this progressive university allows us, the students to determine our own fait and future. As a child I had always dreamed of a place where knowledge existed in abundance, a place where different backgrounds came together to create a common purpose. I am happy to say that I have found that place, and it is here, on the campus of UW-Madison. The vibrancy of the diverse cultures here on campus is truly representative of life around the world. The unique opportunity to share knowledge in foreign countries while studying abroad, as well as the benefit of having professors who come from all corners of the world cannot be expressed in writing. What I look forward to the most however, is building life long friendships with individuals who I know will change the world. Even as I look at the incoming class of 2017, I am proud to call the future doctors, engineers and artists my classmates. We all have, running through our blood, the unexplainable, indefinable notion of what it means to be a Wisconsin badger, and no matter where our paths lead us, the history that we choose to create on this campus will live with us forever.

 

Coming from the girl who had so much trouble finding herself, I feel at peace knowing that for the next four years I will be attending UW-Madison all while receiving world class education, creating life long friendships and broadening my horizons. So maybe my ideal world is not too far from reality, maybe it is up to us to create a world without racism, prejudice and abundant knowledge. There is an African saying that states “ if you want to go fast travel alone, but if you want to go far, travel together.” So my fellow students, I invite you to join me in my quest for a greater today and brighter tomorrow. On, Wisconsin!

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