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College Graduation
Saturday May 20, 2006

Article from CSUMB

CSUMB graduates largest class yet

‘Imagine the future,’ Luis Valdez tells audience

Luis Valdez, keynote speaker at the May 20 commencement ceremony, asked the graduates, “To whom does the future belong?” At the ceremony – the 10th in the university’s history – over 800 students were awarded bachelor’s and master’s degrees and teaching credentials before a capacity crowd of 7,500 in the university’s stadium. It was the largest graduating class in the school’s history. Under sunny skies, several speakers stressed the importance of honoring the university’s vision – to build a multicultural learning community that prepares students to contribute productively, responsibly and ethically to California and the global community. Valdez, one of the university’s original faculty members, a playwright, director of “Zoot Suit” and “La Bamba” and founder of El Teatro Campesino, told the audience: “When 13 of us gathered to establish this university, we were challenged to think outside the box. That ‘box’ was Fort Ord. “Thinking outside the box means to think globally,” he said. He reminded the audience that 600 million people live in the Americas, and more than half of them speak Spanish. “And Spanish is a European language.” And in a reference to the current immigration debate, he said, “The wall will never work. The Rockies didn’t keep the pioneers from reaching the West; a wall in the Sonora Desert won’t keep out people who are looking for a way to support their families.” He posed the question, “What do you believe,” and urged them to “communicate what you believe in the work you do." And then he answered his opening question – To whom does the future belong. “The future belongs to those who can imagine it.” Dr. Amalia Mesa-Bains, recently retired head of the Department of Visual and Public Art, was awarded the President’s Medal for exemplary service to the university and commitment to its vision. She was selected for the honor by the campus community. Dr. Mesa-Bains dedicated the medal to her parents, both recently deceased. “My parents, like so many in the audience, taught me about hard work, respect, family. They taught me to stand up for what is right.” She echoed what several speakers alluded to when she said, “What’s going on now makes our vision especially relevant.” This year’s President’s Medal for Exemplary Student Achievement went to Dante Galeazzi, a business administration major who has served his fellow students through his work with the Otter Student Union and Black Box Cabaret. Dr. Diane Cordero de Noriega was honored for her work as interim president the last year and her seven years of service as provost. During that time, the university achieved accreditation and doubled the size of the student body. Leon Panetta, former congressman from the Central Coast, head of the Office of Management and Budget and chief of staff to President Clinton, introduced the first graduates of the Master of Public Policy program. The program is a collaboration between the university and the Leon and Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy. “This class is a fulfillment of the Panetta Institute’s commitment to inspiring young people to lives of public service,” he said. Panetta was the keynote speaker at the university’s first commencement 10 years ago.