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Gallego Challenges Graduates
To Give Something Back

Texas Representative Pete Gallego reminded Sam Houston State University graduates Saturday just how lucky they are to be living in the United States, with a college degree.

A total of 850 degrees, the largest number ever for a fall commencement exercise, were awarded in ceremonies at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at Johnson Coliseum. Gallego's speech during the first ceremony was delayed somewhat and came after graduate degrees had been awarded.

Gallego's flight to Huntsville, piloted by Texas State University System Chancellor Lamar Urbanovsky, was delayed by weather. Also traveling with Gallego and Urbanovsky and participating in the ceremonies was SHSU graduate James Hayley, a recently appointed member of the university's board of regents.

Gallego illustrated his point by asking his audience of more than 6,000 at the first ceremony and slightly fewer in the afternoon to imagine the earth as a single village of 100 people. There would be 57 Asians, 21 Europeans, 14 from the Western Hemisphere, and eight from Africa.

There would be slightly more females than males--51 to 49--and 70 would be non-white, 67 would not be Christians, 80 would live in sub-standard housing, 70 would be unable to read and 50 would suffer from malnutrition.

The key figure, however, was that only one would have a college education, and half of the entire village's wealth would be in the hands of six people, all from the United States.

"If you think about it," he said, "a college education really is amazing and unique. For some of us, the idea that only one of 100 people gets a college degree is unimaginable. However, for many people in our country, in our state, and in our neighborhoods, this is a reality."

Gallego also urged the graduates to become examples for friends, neighbors, and the communities from which they came and in which they will live.

"Maybe you can only afford to do two hours of week of tutoring at the local elementary school," he said. "Maybe you can only volunteer two hours a week to help with a neighborhood clean up project, or get involved with a local police department project."

If each of the 850 graduates graduating Saturday in both ceremonies contributed two hours per week to community service, it would add up to 88,400 hours per year.

"Tell me we can't make a difference in that amount of time," he said.

And if the graduates aren't motivated by the "warm and fuzzy feeling" that comes from helping someone, another benefit would be the money saved by individuals helping solve such problems as health care and poverty--tax money that could be used elsewhere or reduced.

He left the graduates with the challenge of examining where they are, how they got there, and where they were going.

"After you leave here today you have earned the right to celebrate," he said. "But tomorrow, I urge you to think about what it was that helped you get here. What made a difference for you? How can you make a difference for someone else? How do you choose to make society better?

- END -

SHSU Media Contact:Frank Krystyniak
December 11, 1999
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