[Posted June 12, 2018] Beginning with the Class of 1926, Uni has seen its graduates move on from the high school ranks with pride in their achievements, both at the school and in the future. So it was on June 7, when the Class of 2018 was recognized at Kampmann Stadium and saluted by Uni principal Eric Davidson:
“Class of 2018, Parents, friends, and my esteemed colleagues:
“Most of these speeches can go on longer than they should. Especially when there are 380 or so graduates waiting to walk this stage. That doesn’t include the thousands of families and friends, alumni and faculty, and others, who have not come here to listen to me talk, but rather to celebrate the students who have earned the right to have their name announced in front of all of us here.
“But I ask for indulgence here. I will not presume to advise you on your life ahead. Nor will I suggest the “right” road for you to choose, whether the one less traveled or the one that suits your shoes. I can only share my personal narrative because that is the one I know best.
“It starts with Mark Twain: The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.
“I was born long enough ago to be considered old now. I ended up in Los Angeles the summer of 1974 and graduated a year later from Westchester High School. I had been born but hadn’t found out why.
“I went to Loyola Marymount University out of convenience to my parents. My father was the Dean of Fine and Communication Arts and he didn’t have to pay tuition. I lived at home. I worked lots of jobs while going to LMU. I was a chef, mechanic, machinist, Men’s furnishing’s manager, and sold linens. I was a bouncer, a bar back, and a bartender. In every job, I ended up in management because I was willing to do the hard work and because people didn’t mind working for me. But I was just breathing in the air. I spent ten years trying to find my why without success. I just kept looking.
“I found myself in a classroom as a substitute teacher. I was doing something I swore I would never do … be an educator like my dad. I also found something that made me curious. I started to like getting up in the morning. I liked getting ready to go and change the smallest part of the world – my classroom. It was fun, and I was still curious. I wondered how I might increase the size of my classroom. I left the classroom and became a coordinator. Then moved to a District office. But my classroom wasn’t in a school anymore. I needed to get back to school.
“I lived in Westchester. My kids were going to Westchester. I had graduated from Westchester. I became an Assistant Principal at Westchester High School. I thought it was perfect and for four years it was. I thought I had found my why, then I applied for this job, not because I wanted it, but because I wanted the experience. Guess what?
“I love this job. This is my why. This is what I was meant to do, and I only want to do this job the best I can. I love this job because of the ones sitting here, the ones sitting there, and the ones who couldn’t get a seat in here. I also love the ones who aren’t here, like Olga [Kokino], Violetta [Ponce], and Gabriel [Orozco].
“I love this job because it gives me a chance to make better the lives of my students and to give hope: Hope to those who have experienced the trauma of life without asking, to those who have lost more than their fair share, and mostly to those who are unjustly held captive by a society that is as ruthless as it is kind. I love this job because we are responsible for sustaining a democracy whose rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness can fade out of existence, but whose dreams can never be restricted or legislated against. I love this job because regardless of right and wrong, good and bad, black and brown, rich and poor, we have the duty to love each other as Americans and not question the loyalty that is owed to each citizen. Finally, I love this job because my classroom is just the right size – to hold all of you and the 18,000 other Wildcats who have passed through our halls these past ten years.
“As I told you the other day, a laugh is a cure for most of the things that ail you and love is answer to most of life’s riddles. Laugh hard and love long.
“Finally, I want to share the words of Maya Angelou:”I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
“I feel more than I can describe. Thank you and good luck.”