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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis

Remarks by Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis
Long Beach City College
Long Beach, California
Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Good evening!!!

Thank you Dr. (Eloy) Ortiz Oakley for your warm introduction!

I want to acknowledge some of our dignitaries present here today:

  • Long Beach City College Board President Dr. Thomas Clark;
  • Long Beach City College Board Vice President Roberto Uranga;
  • Long Beach City College Board Members: Mark Bowen, Jeff Kellogg, and Doug Otto

It’s an honor to have been invited to speak at the 2010 Long Beach City College graduation ceremony!!!

Since 1927 LBCC has been providing a quality education to its students.

And as one of the most culturally diverse colleges in California, LBCC welcomes all people who desire to grow and serve.

I hear that by the year 2020, President Ortiz Oakley, has the goal of making LBCC the number one school in the WORLD – by giving the highest number of college degrees and certificates!

And as far as I can tell, I know it will happen!

Great minds and great students come out of City Colleges.

That is why I began my career in public service as a Board Member of the Rio Hondo City College Board of Trustees, fighting for greater funding and diversity amongst the faculty!

I want to thank the LBCC faculty, staff, and its board for allowing me to give the last official lesson to the class of 2010.

I grew up in a time when graduating high school was a big accomplishment and college was just a dream.

I was told I was not college material, but I never listened to the doubters!

My high school counselor told me that I should be a secretary….an office assistant.

It turns out he was half right.

One day, I would become a Secretary….the Secretary of Labor.

I was the first person in my family to attend college.

I was a SYEP student and benefited from Pell Grants, the Cal Grants and work-study programs.

These programs were fought for by great leaders during the Civil Rights Movement.

Many people gave their lives for the benefits we share and enjoy today.

But, there are many in our society who think it’s foolish to invest in these types of programs.

These programs give hope to students who otherwise wouldn’t have these opportunities.

I was one of those students and because of my college experience I encouraged my younger sisters to go to college as well.

One has a PhD in public health and my twin sisters are engineers!

If I believed for one minute I couldn’t achieve my dream of going to college, then I know I would not be your Labor Secretary.

Because the path that brought me here was filled with great role models and experiences I will never forget.

My point to all of this is…If I could do it, you can too.

And I know you can, because the students at LBCC are doing great things.

Students like Rachel Shimpock, who won the prestigious Educational Endowment Scholarship from the Society of North American Goldsmiths.

She is the first City College student to win this award!

How about Amanda Sosa, who had no faith in being accepted to a four-year university. 

She is now being courted by both UCLA and UC Berkeley; where she plans to major in English.

There’s Sergio Linares, who is receiving his associates degree in Alternative Fuels and is the recipient of the Outstanding Student Award.

And, there are the 9 LBCC students from the Electrical Department.

They received the “Overall Champion Award” in the 2009 annual international Marine Advance Technology Education competition.

This is evidence that an education can fortify you against the uncertainties of a 21st century economy. 

And your education is even more important now that you’re entering a tough job market.

You’re accepting your degrees as international competition increases, and with an economy that’s still rebounding from the worst crisis since the Great Depression. 

As your Secretary of Labor it is my obligation to help American workers, and all of you, prepare yourselves for jobs in the 21st century economy.

This Administration’s number one priority in confronting the economic crisis is to put Americans back to work.

At the same time, the Labor Department is making the necessary investments for  workers by:

  • Providing $720 million in job training programs that focus on careers in allied health, clean and renewable energy and information technology;
  • Investing millions of dollars in Job Corps, Youth Build and Summer Youth Employment;
  • Enforcing our labor laws, so that you are paid fairly and have a safe workplace; and
  • Protecting vulnerable workers, because no one should be subject to workplace discrimination.

And despite setbacks in our economy, we have seen certain industries grow and there are encouraging signs that the worst is now behind us.

However, we still have work to do!

As Secretary of Labor, I know very well how critical an education is to access good jobs with good wages and benefits.

By 2016, four out of ten new jobs will require at least some advanced level of education or training.

In the words of our President: “let there be no doubt – the future belongs to the nation that best educates its citizens.”

With your degree in hand, you’re in a stronger position to outcompete workers around the globe. 

Workers with more technical expertise and critical thinking capacity will be best positioned to secure the higher wage jobs of the future.

Our country’s economic supremacy, our ability to outcompete other countries, will be shaped not just in our boardrooms, not just at our factory floors, but in our classrooms, and our schools. 

It will be determined by how well all of us, and especially all of you – continue to meet the challenges of our global economy.

And while you have all climbed the educational hurdle, too many young people, just like you, are still not as well prepared. 

By any number of different yardsticks, Latinos and African Americans are being outperformed by their white and Asian classmates. 

Students in well-off areas are outperforming students in poorer rural or urban communities. 

In a nation as great as ours, no young man or woman should be denied the opportunity to pursue an education. 

In America, the chance to graduate from high school and to be ready for college shouldn’t be shaped by where you grew up, or how much money your family earns.  

It shouldn’t be shaped by where your parents are from, what neighborhood you live in, or what language you speak. 

Certainly, it should not be shaped by the circumstances in which your family immigrated to this great nation!

Each and every one of our young people deserves a chance to pursue a higher education!  

As I stand here today and look out at this beautiful crowd, I truly wish you could see what I see.

I see the next generation of our nation’s leaders. 

I see the young people that will develop the next innovative way to save lives and practice medicine. 

I see the next innovators and inventors who will develop solar cells or green buildings that produce all of the energy they consume.  

I see our next City and State leaders or perhaps our next member of Congress or a future Supreme Court Justice. 

But, I also see your parents, grandparents, wives, husbands, and children.

These people supported and pushed you when you didn’t want to go study at the library.

They gave you gas money, washed your clothes, prepared your dinner, and most of all – believed in you!

I think the graduates should stand and give them a big round of applause…because today is a momentous occasion for your families as well!

Class of 2010, this is a period of momentous change. 

We can’t stop change, but we can shape and adapt to it. 

And when I think about how our world is constantly changing, I remember the great words by President Kennedy – “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” 

So, graduates…are you going to heed this challenge?
What will you do tomorrow? 

What will your contributions be?

The time and moment has come for you to decide. 

Great opportunities await you…but you must go get it, because it will not come to you.

Run after it! Pursue it!

You can help make the world a better place and rewrite the history books. 

I look forward to reading the story of the Long Beach City College class of 2010!

Thank you.  God Bless you.

And congratulations class of 2010.

Si se puede!