Not for reproduction or distribution without written consent of the author.
María Ochoa, Ph.D. © 2007
The Dignity of Artful Living
Chicana/o – Latina/o Graduation Keynote Address
June 14, 2002
California State University Hayward
Buenas noches. Good evening. Congratulations to the graduates. Felicidades to
the families and loved ones assembled here. It is an honor to be among you, as we
celebrate your accomplishments in this twenty-third year of Chicana/o – Latina/o
graduation at Cal State Hayward.
Tonight we give honor to the graduates. You reached for the moon and are now
among the stars. No doubt there were times when the completion of your studies
seemed impossibly far away. However, your moment of success is here.
Tonight we give thanks to the enablers. Damos agradecemos a todos los abuelas/os,
madres y padres, esposas/os, hermanas/os, madrinas y padrinos que están aquí esta
noche. You have given your graduate the love and strength to accomplish that which we
celebrate here. You have sacrificed so that they might excel.
While I was thinking about the significance of our celebration tonight, I was
reminded of a story written by Eduardo Galeano. When I was an undergraduate
student, I came to know and love the work of Galeano. A lyrical historian, he lived for
decades in political exile from his native land of Uruguay. In his writings, he expresses
the painful estrangement that comes from living far from one’s home and family.
His stories are filled with a yearning for the warmth and comfort of living among
loved ones, of walking down familiar streets and of being embraced by friends and
family. His artistry enabled me to live with the alienation that I felt while in college. In his
quietly eloquent book, Libro de los Abrazos
, The Book of Embraces
, Galeano presents
a series of enchanting parables, anecdotes, dreams, and autobiography. It seems
appropriate to mark this occasion with a reading from that book.
“The Dignity of Art”
I write for those who cannot read me, the downtrodden, and the ones who have
been waiting on line for centuries to get into history. I write, too, for those who cannot
read a book or afford to buy one. When I begin to lose heart, it does me good to recall a
lesson in the dignity of art, which I learned years ago at a theater in Assisi, Italy. Helena
and I had gone to see an evening of pantomime. No one else showed up. The two of us
were the entire audience. When the lights dimmed the usher and the ticket seller joined
us. Despite the fact that there were more people on stage than in the audience, the
actors worked as hard as if they were basking in the glory of a full house on opening
night. They put their hearts and souls into the performance and it was marvelous. Our
applause shook the empty hall. We clapped until our hands were sore.
I believe that this story is Galeano’s way of urging us to make the most of what