A message to the Native graduating Classes of 2010
Last Friday, I had the honor and privilege of attending the commencement ceremonies in my hometown of Zuni, N.M. where my younger brother was the guest speaker. In his address, my brother stressed the importance of family as the cornerstone of any endeavor. Indeed, as we seek to recover from myriad societal troubles, this year's graduating seniors are no longer venturing out into a world filled with promise, but a world filled with uncertainty about what the future may hold for them.
Daily news reports in recent weeks have inundated us with news about the latest developments in illegal immigration, health care reform, our "economic downturn," the continuing war on terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, bullying and continued violence in our nation's schools. Locally, we keep hearing about our state and tribal leaders bickering amongst themselves and not fulfilling the responsibilities that they were entrusted to fulfill. Hearing about these kinds of events can make any parent of a graduating senior worry and wonder, "What kind of world are we leaving for our children?"
Despite the fact that high school graduation is a once-in-lifetime celebratory milestone in the lives of our Native youth, the state of our world today undoubtedly leaves many to wonder about the kind of contributions our children can make to better the world that we are living in.
I am a firm believer in education. No matter what background you come from, all education begins at home. Knowledge - as well as "good" and "bad" behaviors and habits - is usually gained through observation and reinforced through discipline, or in some cases, the lack thereof. Therefore, parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and other relatives should always try to be positive role models and provide proper guidance.
Despite the state of our world today, continuing your education is perhaps the best available option for today's youth. Families should encourage their young teenage sons and daughters to go to college and get their degrees in technological, medical or scientific fields so that they can contribute to research towards improving human health life and coming up with the latest in advanced technologies. Continued
advancements in "green" technologies can lead to many jobs within Native communities in the next few years.
As a result of the economic downturn, Arizona is suffering from cutbacks in funding, which in turn is leading to a lack of qualified teachers to teach the next generation of children to take their place. There is still a great need for well-qualified individuals to take positions of leadership and assist in many different areas of need, such as child welfare. And there will always be a need for qualified law enforcement officials to help protect you and your loved ones.
For Native Americans, there is a great need for doctors, lawyers, teachers, managers, entrepreneurs, and leaders who are willing to make sacrifices and commitments to helping out their people. We need more of our Native youth to prove that when you set your heart and mind to accomplishing your goals, nothing is impossible! Despite the fact that you're no longer in high school, education is a never-ending, lifelong endeavor.
So with that in mind, I urge each and every one of you to think long and hard about what you want to do with your lives. Take this opportunity to do something positive with your life and use the skills obtained from your high school education to achieve all of your life's goals, and continue to keep the future - your children - in mind.