As he walked on the stage of Macky Auditorium, a thunderous applause served as a fanfare for Vicente Fox .
He was all smiles. Welcomed by students from the University of Colorado and community members of Boulder, he appeared unflinching with each hand. A former president of Mexico, his country, and one I also consider my own, is in peril. Its streets are soaked with the blood of victims, criminals and federal agents who are in the midst of one of the deadliest era of crime Mexico has ever witnessed.
Sure, he spoke about the bloodshed. He had no choice. But beyond the self-inflicted destruction some of the people of Mexico are enduring, Mr. Fox spoke with equal finesse about another topic entirely: education.
He spoke about how thousands of students in Mexico are unable to receive an education. About parents who with anguish remove their students from schooling because they cannot afford it and are in need of an extra set of hands at home. He spoke of the great responsibility resting on the shoulders of college students across the United States: a responsibility to create equal opportunities for all.
But it was one sentence he said that summed up how vital, how essential and how invaluable education is for any nation:
“Education is the only way we can change a nation in a generation.”
Those words resonated like a clanging bell in my mind. I wanted to stand up and applaud both his sharp verse and the powerful message it conveyed.
Changing a nation through a generation? That should be the slogan of every single elementary school in the United States.
This reminds me of an old story.
I remember walking the halls of East Middle School in Aurora, Colo., with an enormous sign hanging above me that read, “think college.” I never though much of the sign. It was just an enormous sign, another stupid message the administration was trying to get me to focus on.
It was whatever.
Then one day, it came up in class. One teacher, a balding science teacher with a taste for tacky Hawaiian shirts and wrinkled cargo shorts, took it upon himself to lecture all of the students in our eight grade science class on the reality of things.
“The drop out rate for Hispanics at Hinkley High School is ridiculous,” he spat. “How do you expect any kids to go to college with that kind of dropout rate?” I remember the words clearly because I remember the moment as a defining one for me. I never really knew how bad dropout rates where at Hinkley, but I knew that I did not want to walk around the high school a statistic.
So while his first comment was sour, it was his second flurry of remarks that really made things bitter.
“Think college? The sign should read, “Think High School!’”
What a jerk. It was painful to hear that from a teacher, a person whose job, in my opinion, should always include inspiring students not insulting them. I remember my head falling towards the ground that day.
Yet, I guess in an odd way, that moment was inspiring for me.
Education is a powerful tool for development, perhaps the strongest, as Mr. Fox suggested. And that day during my middle school class, while it hurt to hear that idiot teacher rant about the lack of interest among students who attended East, it also ended up helping me realize that in improving that statistic would involve my own education. Now I realized improving that statistic through education helps Latinos improve their community, make their families proud and perhaps, if they really try, change the world.
It all begins with education, and it should. Education is the weaver of dreams.
I’ll have to ask my little brother, if that that sign reading ‘Think College’ is still there, as he now attends East Middle School. Either way, he doesn’t need it to remind him what his future plan should included.
For that, he has me. He doesn’t need to hang me up anywhere. You better believe he knows how important an education is. And how awesome it is living and learning as a Colorado Buffalo.