Graduating into "the future business"
While addressing MDC’s class of 2010, former President William Jefferson Clinton spoke about his first time visiting Miami Dade College. "The school was only 32 years old, and I came back again as President because I thought that this institution, as much as any college in America, symbolized our future," said Clinton. "And today, I feel that more strongly."
With the College now beginning celebrations of its 50th year, Clinton delivered the keynote address to students at the May 1 North and West Campus commencement exercises, one of seven ceremonies at which nearly 11,000 students received associate and bachelor’s degrees and certificates.
"I wish that every single American classroom in elementary, middle and high school could have watched a video of the flags coming across the stage and all of you cheering," Clinton said about the crowd’s reaction during the ceremonial presentation of the 55 flags representing the graduates’ diverse countries of origin. "I wish that all those people who think immigration is a problem for America could have watched this ceremony."
The 42nd President of the United States showered MDC’s graduates with praise, touching on the 96 percent success rate that the College’s associate in science degree holders had in finding jobs last year despite the dismal economy. He also lauded the students’ commitment to global citizenship, as evidenced by strong participation in the Clinton Global Initiative University meeting held in Miami a few weeks earlier.
"This education empowers you to live your dreams," said Clinton. "You listen today at the ceremony; listen to what the degrees are; watch all of your classmates walk across the stage; look at their differences, not just their different skin colors and genders and age, but their differences in faith and thinking and politics. It’s obvious what the benefits are, but you will not be able to bring children and grandchildren into a world that is this unequal, this unstable and this unsustainable. We have to do something about it."
Clinton sets mission
Clinton charged the class of 2010 with devising solutions to the issues that plague America. He urged each graduate to ask how they can contribute to closing the gap between the country’s current situation and the ideal place to be. "You’re here, whooping it up, cheering, stood up when the flags came across, stood up for America because you know that you’re in the future business. Your identity is important, but your common humanity matters more."
The former President stressed how people have been betting against America since the country’s founding. "Now there are people who say, ‘No country can accommodate this kind of diversity.’ To them I say, ‘You ought to come to Miami Dade.’ You are carrying the future of America in your hearts and minds. Whether you make it or not depends on whether or not more of us can look like you, think more like you, act more like you. We have to find a way to embrace our diversity and affirm our common humanity."
Speakers share wisdom
Also offering inspiring words were Honduran President Porfirio Lobo Sosa; U.S. Senator George LeMieux; Helen Aguirre Ferré, chair of MDC’s District Board of Trustees and opinion page editor of Diario Las Américas; Jamie Merisotis, president of the Lumina Foundation for Education; and James A. Leach, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
"What a privilege it is to study and work in Miami, where immigrants from all over the world can make the American dream come true," said Lobo Sosa. "This is a great example of democracy in action, and it is you who will pass it on to future generations."
Sen. LeMieux spoke about the challenges many MDC students have overcome. "Your graduating class is full of people who have overcome tremendous obstacles to be here," said LeMieux. "These stories make up the tapestry of this education community."
Leach, like Clinton, also gave graduates a clear mission.
"Go forth and rejuvenate the American spirit with civility toward each and respect for all," he said. "A hate-free nation must be our common goal."
— Staff Report