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Our Director Director's Blog

I had the great privilege today of giving the commencement address at Miami Dade College for the Class of 2015.  These students worked hard to make it across that stage. Many of them held down jobs while they pursued their degrees; some of them were raising families as they carved out time for studying and homework -- all the while keeping alive their hopes for a better life than perhaps their parents have had.

As I shared my own experiences with these impressive graduates, I also thought about the First Lady’s Reach Higher initiative this week. It encourages students to continue on to higher education, and I was reminded that the inspiring scene I witnessed in Florida today is still out of reach for so many.

I was once discouraged from attending college myself, by a high school guidance counselor who could not see past my ethnicity and my family’s modest circumstances to envision the future that my good grades and work ethic made possible for me. I didn’t know when I was just starting out as a young student in Colorado that someday I would be part of the President’s leadership team. But, I told the Miami Dade College graduates, I did know that I had more in me than what those who discouraged me to aim high believed.

I also urged them to be passionate about what they do and to let their passions guide them. I have had many jobs -- teacher, school administrator, chief of staff to a big-city mayor and to Cabinet secretaries, and now the human resources leader for the largest employer in the country. And in each and every one of these positions, I have followed my deep commitment to strengthening the role of women and of people of color in public service. That passion has been my true north, and I encouraged the graduates to find the passion that will guide them.

I reminded them that character matters. Throughout my life, I have chosen not to dwell on the people or circumstances that could hold me back. I chose to celebrate the school administrator who saw my potential, the Denver leaders who recognized my commitment to public service and social justice, and the President who sought out my leadership skills. It is those individuals whose character I wished to emulate. I shared with the graduates my own discovery that character is shaped not just by what you do, but by whom you stand with and how you treat others.

And finally, I told them that if they are strong of character, committed to their own success, and determined to face and overcome their fears, they will be on a path that leads to all they’ve dreamed of.

Director Archuleta stands on stage at Miami Dade College at Podium with additional people in background  

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