Dr. Marilyn Martinez Saucedo delivered the following address at the Southern Commencement held Sunday, May 24. Potential student commencement speakers were nominated by academic advisors, faculty members and campus directors and chosen after submitting speeches to a selection committee.
Today is the culmination of a lifetime of challenges and triumphs. And, while earning a doctorate has been a life-long dream for me, it could have easily not happen.
The eldest daughter of Cuban immigrants looking for a better life for their young, but growing family, I remember the struggles that we experienced. I remember my dad leaving home for weeks at a time because that is what he needed to do to support his family, but my wishing desperately that he were home. I remember my mom doing her best to raise four small children, almost alone, with little education, little money, little English, and no driver’s license. I remember silently wishing my family could just be like “everybody else’s.” I remember my mom’s embarrassment when I needed help with school work and she couldn’t give it and then my hoping that no one would know that mother had less than a third grade education – even though it was through no fault of her own.
I remember moving six times by the time I started eighth grade and hating the thought that I had to make new friends again. While I remember how much my parents encouraged me to reach for more educationally, I had no idea how to navigate this very complex system in place. It took a lot of people to help me. I remember my dad losing his job my freshman year in college but not telling me that he’d been out of work for over a month because he didn’t want me to consider dropping out. Luckily, I didn’t! In fact, I became the first person in my family to go to college, to graduate, and to earn a master’s degree. I credit my parents for that. They reminded me regularly that to believed in me and not to expect less from myself than of what I was capable.
Then, grown up life happened. I had to start making what I call the adult, personal decisions that included choosing what would take priority during certain phases of my life. A lot of you absolutely know what I mean because you also had to make similar decisions based on different priorities and on your own life experiences.
Making the decision to return to school as an adult is not an easy one. There are so many things that you have to consider. I had to think about should I really be going back to school at my age? Did I have what it takes? Did I want to burden my family with the financial challenges of a doctoral program at this point in our lives? My husband was retiring, for goodness sake! Would I be neglecting my amazing husband, my wonderful family, and my dear friends? Would I be able to balance my job as a comprehensive high school principal with a rigorous doctoral program? I was told it couldn’t be done! And, the list goes on.
With what appeared to be insurmountable uncertainty and doubt, how did I manage to make the decision that ultimately led me to be here today, earning a doctoral degree from one of the most amazing universities, Brandman University? Because even though there were challenges in my life, I had learned two important lessons from wonderful people who have loved, encouraged, and supported me throughout my life and within this doctoral program.
The first lesson is to surround yourselves with people who lift you up and bring out the best in you because, trust me, you will have moments of self-doubt. Stay away from those people who seek to hold you down and who belittle your ambitions and your dreams, whenever and whatever they might be. Associate instead with people who see the greatness in you and who encourage you to grow, to learn and to live a purpose-filled life. Conversely, you need to be that person – be that person in return.
The second lesson, and I learned that lesson the hard way, is that courageous people are not fearless. They act in spite of fear. In the words of Dale Carnegie, “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
About the author
Marilyn Martinez Saucedo is among the first Brandman students to defend her dissertation and earn her doctorate in education (Ed.D.), organizational leadership. She is the director of College and Career Readiness (K-12) for the Beaumont Unified School District and was previously principal of Beaumont High School.
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