Wendy Carrillo’s USC Chicano/Latino Grad Speech

The USC 29th Annual Latino/Chicano Graduation Celebration hosted by USC’s El Centro Chicano took place Thursday May 14th at 8pm. Below is my speech.

Good evening parents, faculty, staff, distinguished guests and fellow graduates.

It is with great pride and humility that I stand before you today as your graduation speaker for the 29th Annual Chicano/Latino Graduate Celebration for the University of Southern California’s Class of 2009.

Bienvenidos a todos ustedes que celebran con nosotros el dia de hoy, a los papas, mamas, abuelitos, abuelitas, hermanos, hermanas,  tias, tios, primos y amistadas, y hasta los vecinos que decidieron venir, les agradecemos sus precensias y apoyo.

El honor de estar frente de ustudes como representante de la clase universitaria 2009 de la Universidad del Sur de California es completamente mio.

Look at us.

We stand tall and proud on this beautiful day, our Raza sashes hanging proudly around our necks. What a sight we must be.

Only we know the sacrifices we made to me here, to have completed, finished a grueling academic career at one of the best Universities in the nation. 

No one said being a Trojan was an easy task.

Being a Trojan is hard work.

But we know hard work, don’t we?

Some of us come from families that have immigrated to this country with blood, sweat and tears as down payments for a better tomorrow.

We have parents that work two or three jobs to make ends meet.

As students, some of us have had to work two or three jobs to pay tuition and buy books.  

Some of us have left family behind in other countries to fulfill the dreams of our ancestors.

Some of us have dealt with the beautiful complications of being the firsts in our families to graduate American high schools, and pursue a higher education in the form of a Bachelor’s, a Masters or a PhD.

 Some of us have younger brothers and sisters who look up to us and whose view of college is no longer, IF but WHEN.

Some of us have been lucky and have followed the academic footprints of someone close to us that has led the way.

We have pledged to Greek Associations that have made everlasting impressions in the true meaning of brotherhoods and sisterhoods.

We have played sports or joined organizations that enriched our experiences as students and members of the Trojan family.

Some of us are single mothers, single fathers, or simply single, bilingual, ready to mingle – doing it on our own.

Some of us, have experienced the trauma and courage of fighting in out nations military, while others have had to battle health issues far greater than any of us could ever comprehend.

Our commonality lies in the foundation that regardless of where we come from, or what we look like, we share a deep understanding that we are here, in the present, living our own truths, representing not just ourselves, but our friends and family whose without support, we would not be here today.

In the spirit of that struggle, Malcolm X once said “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today”

In 2008, 16,608 Freshmen were accepted to USC. Of that, only 2,003 were Latino. That same year, 17,139 Graduate students were accepted, only 1,326 were Latino.

We know the heavy burden and awesome responsibility of what it is to be Latino within these Trojan grounds.

And when we leave this campus to pursue jobs in a market that is crumbling, we leave with the knowledge and imagination to shape our destiny, not to be controlled by it.

We take our legacy with us and we do with it our own will, because that is what Trojans do.

A wise man once said “Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential.”

That something larger, is our familia, our USC familia.

That wise man, is now President of the United States of America.

And while President Obama may not be a Trojan, he may as well be, because he dared to dream big, and he invited us to join him.

Many of us who were inspired by the movement of his campaign had never felt any inkling to become civically engaged.

We have read and perhaps been moved by the Chicano movement of the 60’s, but for many of us, regardless of party affiliations, for the 1st time, saw a leader within our own generation that inspired us to believe that we could change the course of our nation.

And we did.

Pundits who said that Brown and Black tensions would overpower this election, had a strong awakening.

Latinos won the election for Obama. We came out heavily in swing states like New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, and even Florida.

We proved the power of our vote could change the direction and face of this country, a face that looks just a little bit more like ours.

Each month, 50,000 Latinos turn 18. How many of them register their voices to vote?

The US Census reported that just four years ago, more than half the children under age five in California were Latino.

That same year, more than half the babies born in this state were born to Latina mothers.

The question we have to ask ourselves is, eighteen years from now, how many of those children would have graduated high school?

How many of those children will pursue higher education?

The answer is that unfortunately, the numbers won’t reflect the majority, and if WE don’t do anything about it, we will continue to be under represented, under educated and under counted. 

We hold in hearts and in our hands, the opportunity to change our destiny, and for many of us, just like for many of those children, education is our only ticket out of poverty.

I was only 13 when I learned I was undocumented.

I was fortunate to have become a resident and later a citizen.

Others have not been as lucky, and there may be some of you here today, wondering what you will do with your degree and no valid means of working and contributing to our society.

I know that the road has been hard and sometimes getting through it is a test of self endurance and determination.

Sometimes, our own self doubt has been the barrier of our achievement, questioning our right to belong here, questioning our ability to understand and comprehend the magnitude of our own voices.

And this issue, this lack of access to higher education is the civil rights movement of our time.

We, Latinos are the largest growing demographic in the nation, and yet, we lack the most in resources.

And as we prepare to go out into the real world, we must remember that our affiliation with USC is not over.

And while we may be leaving the institution as students, we must continue our commitment to El Centro Chicano. Our responsibility as alumni is just beginning, and we take with us all we learned.

  1. In return, each of us, must make a pledge that we will improve those entry numbers by recruiting, engaging and motivating other young Latinos to pursue higher education at this university.   

Inscribed in the seal our degree will bear, lie the words Palmam qui meruit ferat – Let whoever earns the palm bear it.

Graduates, we have earned that seal!

Today, is not the end of our academic careers, for education is a lifelong journey,

Today, is the beginning of when we become responsible to someone other than ourselves


En el 2004, por primera ves en la historia de California, lo mayoria de niños menos de 5 años fueron Latinos y en ese mismo año, mas de la mitad de bebes nacidos en el estado, nacieron de mamas Latinas.

La pregunta que nos tenemos que hacer es, 18 años después, cuantos de esos bebes habran terminado la preparatoria? Cuantos de ellos seguirán sus estudios en la universidad?

Tristemente, la respuesta es que muchos de ellos no alcanzaran esas metas y quizá hagan decisiones seriamente graves.

Será nuestra responsabilidad de hacer algo para sacar a nuestra gente adelante.

El año pasado, 16,608 estudiantes fueron aceptados a la Universidad como estudiantes de primer año. Solo 2,003 eran Latinos. Ese mismo año, 17,139 estudiantes fueron aceptados en programas de maestrias, solo 1,326 eran Latinos.

El hecho mero de que estemos aquí habla volúmenes de la fortaleza de nuestra gente, y de la igualdad de la mujer al hombre.

Dan luz a las palabras de el poeta revolucionario Cubano Jose Marti, que dijo, “las cualidades morales suben de precio cuando son realzadas por las cualidades inteligentes” y en búsqueda de la construcción de una sociedad perfecta, Marti dice, que la solución “esta en educar a la mujer de modo que pueda vivir de si con honor” y si, “la educación de los hombres es la forma futura de los pueblos, la educación de la mujer garantiza y anuncia los hombres que de ella han de surgir”

Hoy, no se acaba nuestra carrera estudiantil, la educación se aprende por toda la vida 

Pero hoy, hoy nos hacemos responsables de algo más grande que nosotros.

My name is Wendy Maria Carrillo Doño.

I stand before you today, as a product of my East LA community, as an immigrant from El Salvador, as the oldest of five girls, as a proud daughter, granddaughter, sister, and friend, as a graduate of Roosevelt High School, East LA College, Cal State Los Angeles, and now, a Graduate from the University of Southern California with a Masters degree.

I stand before you today, as a representation of who we all are.

In the words of the lesbian Chicana feminist poet, Gloria Anzaldua, “They’d like to think I have melted in the pot. But I haven’t… WE haven’t.”

Congratulations class of 2009! FIGHT ON! Y que vivan los Latino Trojans!


7 thoughts on “Wendy Carrillo’s USC Chicano/Latino Grad Speech

  1. Vivi says:

    I had to google you after reading your comment on a post for CNN’s Latinos in America series. I’m so glad I did. You are such a talented writer and I look forward to following your blog. I’ll definitely be adding it to my favorites on my site. Strong Latinas, like you, give me such hope in our future.


  2. Arlene Venegas says:

    Hi wendy i loved your speech do you have it on video im a speech teacher in hs in el paso tx and i would love to show to students to inspire them in speech and as latinos

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