Mentoring and Elevating the Next Generation of APIDAs in News, Theatre, and CinemaWelcome Message (as prepared)Chancellor Joseph I. CastroSeptember 17, 2021
Thank you, Sadia, for that very kind introduction. It’s an honor to be with you today – and truly a great pleasure as well. I bring each of you warm greetings on behalf of the leadership team of the California State University – which is the nation’s largest, most diverse and most consequential four-year public university. Almost 486,000 students are enrolled on one of the CSU’s 23 campuses, and nearly four million living alumni are making a difference in their families and communities all around the globe.
I want to thank Dr. Chao Vang, Jeannie Wong, Anne Cheng and Kevin Nguyen from Sacramento State, who’ve invested countless hours in creating and organizing this event. I’m so appreciative of your collective dedication and hard work. I also want to give special thanks to Wenda Fong, my colleague and friend who serves as vice-chair of the CSU Board of Trustees and who has contributed her vision, her wealth of expertise and her tireless energy to ensuring the success of this historic event.
I say “historic” because this represents one of the largest online gatherings of APIDA students and their friends and families in California. A virtual meeting of this size is an invaluable opportunity for learning and discovery, allowing hundreds if not thousands to come together to hear ideas and gather inspiration. Today, we have people joining us from every corner of our great state, from coast to coast and around the globe – including participants from India and Bangladesh. There is such courage and positivity here. Welcome to all of you!
Part of the power of this digital platform is its remarkable reach – its ability to bring together such a dynamically diverse audience. But I do wish there was a way for you all to see one another. Because at our core, that is a trait we all share – the desire to be seen, and heard, to be recognized, reflected and acknowledged.
Education offers that opportunity – to become the person you were meant to be, and along the way, to find your voice and your personal identity. That’s not always easy, but I’m honored – and a little humbled – to tell you this morning that some 70,000 individuals who identify as Asian or Pacific Islanders are currently pursuing that opportunity across the 23 Cal State campuses. These are intelligent, creative and passionate students, the state’s and nation’s future leaders who refuse to be deterred by the challenges and ignorance of some in today’s society, and who – with extraordinary courage and resilience – are continuing to press forward to reach their dreams.
Like you, they represent the changing manifestation of American life. The most recent census data, for example, reveals that the number of people who identify as Asian in the U.S. nearly tripled in the past three decades, and Asians are now the fastest growing of the nation’s four largest racial and ethnic groups.
Such a presence in America has not come without a struggle. I know there have been – and continue to be – far too many examples when “being seen” means being profiled and discriminated against – harassed or much worse. Please know that I speak not only for myself, but for all my Cal State colleagues when I tell you that the CSU condemns any and all acts of hatred and racism against members of the APIDA community. We stand in solidarity with the APIDA community within our CSU family and across our state and nation.
And I implore you: Don’t let the fear and ignorance of others limit your personal journey. Don’t allow anything to overshadow your true story. That is a mistake I could have made, but a wonderful mother and grandparents and many great mentors along the way helped keep me on my path. Sometimes, they saw in me more than what I saw in myself, and their faith imbued me with a courage I might not otherwise have had.
I am the grandson of a Dreamer from Michoacán, Mexico. My grandparents were farmworkers in the Central Valley. Together with my single mother – who worked for many years as a beautician – they raised me. All of them certainly had the drive and intelligence to succeed in college but never the opportunity.
I was the first in my family to go to college, attending UC Berkeley as part of the Educational Opportunity Program, which recruited students from California’s Central Valley and from modest financial means. It was an unlikely path for someone from my background, but I chose to pursue it with patience and persistence.
And it was at Berkeley – as I began to see my own life transformed through my college experience – that I first discovered my passion for educational leadership a passion that has led me to a career that continues to surpass my wildest dreams.
Today we’ll be fortunate to hear from friends within the APIDA community who have also discovered their passion in careers and disciplines that might not have been initially obvious to them or to their parents and families. Yet they pursued those dreams with patience and persistence and in the process, they blazed trails—and opened doors and opened eyes and hearts as well.
I want you to know that you are and will always be a vital part of the CSU. We see you for you. We are eager to hear your voice, and to help you find your own path and personal identity. We are delighted to have you join us on your academic journey. You are not alone. To each of you pursuing your path or contemplating what that path might be I offer my heartfelt admiration and appreciation for your intellectual curiosity and for your willingness and courage to go beyond your comfort zone in pursuit of new perspectives and broader horizons. I, for one, cannot wait to see you and hear you, to recognize you and acknowledge you. But most of all, to be inspired by you.
Thank you for the privilege of being a part of your journey today.