Judy to Dreamers: “Education is the Great Equalizer”

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Last week Judy have the keynote address at a ceremony welcoming a new class of participants in the Colorado I Have A Dream program. If you’re not familiar with this incredible foundation, read up on it here. Here’s the text of Judy’s speech:

Welcome Class of 2018! I’m so proud of you all for committing to be Colorado ’s next “Dreamers” in the Colorado I Have a Dream Foundation.

I know folks say that politicians have a lot of power in society, but I’ve always expressed awe at the powerful role teachers play in our lives. I really want to stress this point to our new class of “Dreamers” here today.

I want you to carefully consider the resource your teachers can be for you. Look around you now. These are the faces of people who are committed to sharing the gifts of their time and skills with you. They will be the gentle reminders that nothing good in this life comes easy. But they will also show you that the tough stuff can be really fun too. The people in this room will be the mentors you can to turn to when you need a bit of encouragement and they will be the people you will want to celebrate your latest brilliant achievement with.

All of us have heard the statistics –– those high numbers that predict a lot of Denver students won’t graduate from high school. Let me share a quote with you about negative predictions from Latina philanthropist Barbara Taveras of the Edward W. Hazen Foundation for young people. She says, “Don’t believe all of the negative perceptions that are out there about youth. You, along with your families and communities can change things. You need to be part of a network of peers and adults who can work together to achieve a vision you may have… Young people are not in a ‘waiting period’…waiting to be leaders, waiting to make a difference…young people matter now!”

So, why do you matter now? Because right now, by committing to be in the 2018 class of “Dreamers,” you are already contributing to a better society.

Throughout the years I have learned that education is a great equalizer. An educated population is a population in which more and more people can live securely. HG Wells once said that “human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.”

Right now, too many things are at stake to leave to catastrophe and, I want to thank you, Class of 2018, from the bottom of my heart, for choosing the more challenging road by committing to your educational future, because your future means a healthier world for us all.

Aside from basic employment advantages, it is an educated population that will help us avoid catastrophe for our climate and economy. It is your generation, the same generation as my daughter, whose brilliance gives me hope that humanity has an amazing future to look forward to. Whether it is in the field of science or the entertainment industry, I anticipate we will see awe-inspiring results from the “Dreamers” 2018 class.

Everyone in this room believes that every single child deserves the chance to have a quality education — no matter what the circumstances. We are so fortunate that we live in a country with educational opportunities that can provide us not only with strongest defense against failure, but with an arsenal of tools for successes we have yet to dream up.

History shows us that with strong mentors and a solid education, even someone without a privileged background can transform their destiny. Both Colorado’s own Ken Salazar, now Secretary of the Interior, and our new President Barack Obama overcame tough beginnings. We only have to think about Oprah Winfrey or Congresswomen Linda and Loretta Sanchez to give us the evidence and inspiration we need to remember that we can create our own amazing lives.

Beyond the positive global ripple effect that education offers, there are also many personal gains to be made. I believe one of the most important personal skills a solid education can offer is resourcefulness. Studies show that the more class time a person has had over their lifetimes, the more they make healthier choices for themselves and their families and they better understand how gather the means necessary to make their lives enjoyable.

In my own lifetime, many sacrifices have been made to the fight for educational values we hold dear. My own mentors invested time and commitment to improving the Denver Public School system and to change oppressive practices in higher education. Because of their hard work, my education has propelled me to where I am today. It was my own determination to succeed, and the faith of others who supported the importance of equal education for all, that resulted in my ability to graduate from North High School, earn a bachelors degree at Adams State, and then gain a Masters degree at the University of Denver.

My education wasn’t only about being able to put diplomas on my office wall. School is where I learned important life skills such as empathy and the ability to imagine how to make the impossible possible. It was my educational experience that made it possible to be a successful member of my community. I learned how to recognize of the beauty and richness of diversity and to appreciate the importance of developing resourcefulness.

And, maybe this is the most important part — college was a lot of fun. No joke. I learned pretty early on to work hard because I think life is also very much about playing hard. Not only will you have the earning potential for more of the things you enjoy, like music and movies, you’ll have the confidence and desire to make your own movies or record your own music. And, we’ll get to share in your brilliant creations. A good education can give you all the tools you need to live a very happy life at the same time you’ll be helping to make life happier for others.

Again, I want to express how proud I am of the “Dreamers” in the room tonight who are about to launch on a wonderful educational journey. I want to leave you with this quote from actor and UNICEF Ambassador Edward James Olmos, who said, “We all start out with no discipline, no patience, no perseverance, no determination. We all start out at zero. Whether we messed up or put our best foot forward, with these four qualities, we take care of our mental, physical, and spiritual health each day. Am I the best in the world? No. The question is: Am I the best I can be?”

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