Governor Kathy Hochul addressed LaGuardia Community College’s 50th Annual Commencement Ceremony today.
VIDEO of the event is available here on YouTube and here in TV quality (h.264, mp4).
AUDIO of the event can be found here.
PHOTOS will be available on the Governor’s Flickr page.
An express transcript of the governor’s remarks is available below:
Good morning Class of 2022. Oh I feel the energy out there. But you can do that a little better. Come on, Class of 2022. Yeah, that’s more like it. I’m a little late because I had something that might be a little common to some of you who live out here. I had a flat tire.
And I can get behind those potholes. I’ll tell you right now, those potholes are toast. We’re coming after you. President Ken Adams, we have worked together for many, many years. You are pioneers for the economic development of our country and your rise to this top position. This is a very much prune job. You have to be very special to be elected leader of this amazing institution. So I want to commend you for what you have done.
Also, I know our chancellor just went broke – a great, great leader. Felix Matos Rodriguez, I take his advice all the time. You just heard many of the ideas you saw in our budget, the money comes to support teachers and child care programs.
Anyone out there have kids? Yes, childcare is a big deal. So how are you supposed to take care of your children? You should get an education. So we’re trying to help you figure that out. So I want to thank him for being a great leader.
Our district president, Donovan Richards. i love this guy You have the coolest of the coolest elected officials, Donovan Richards. And Guillermo Linares, the head of the Higher Education Services Corporation.
I have this long, fancy speech for you all, but I’ll probably just toss it aside. First of all, 50 years of this institution have changed the lives of countless people. So many immigrants who came to this state were looking for what is called the American Dream, but I call it the New York Dream because we welcome everyone here. And your success determines the success of your children and grandchildren. And why do I know a little about it?
Because I come from grandparents who also left behind great poverty. They came here with nothing. My grandfather was a migrant farm worker trying to get any job he could find. And finally, after my grandparents were domestic workers and were abused by people they worked for, they raised themselves in a place called Buffalo, New York.
Have you ever heard of Buffalo, New York? Well, I just want you to know, they call it Queen City. They’re not trying to take over Queens County, but they’re calling it Queen City. In Buffalo, you could get a job by making steel with your hands. When Grandpa got that job, it made our family part of the middle class. No longer poor, no longer unable to pay the bills.
And my dad got a job at this steel mill, but you know what else he did? Married to my mother and living in a trailer park in the shadow of the steel mill, my father worked to get a college degree. Worked all night but went to class during the day. When my father graduated, our family changed forever because he could now get a good paying job, but he also set the expectation that all of his six children would have the same opportunities.
That’s how it started with Grandpa, my father, all of us. And I think the same has happened to many of you. For the first time college students raise their hands, for the first time in their families. OK. You have now changed the course of history for your family. You don’t know it yet, but your children will say one day, my mother did this, my father did this, and so will I. So if you take the risk – maybe the language was a challenge, maybe you overcame some other problems related to housing. Who takes care of the children? How will you pay the tuition? You have overcome all that. And that’s a testament to you as people of strength and people who believe in themselves enough to say that with this degree I can achieve a better outcome. This degree is my ticket. It’s a ticket to the opportunity. It’s a ticket to a good job. It’s a ticket to success. And the ticket you’re buying here today is for the children in your family, and yes, your grandchildren.
That is the power of this degree. And I want you to own that, because this is a very big deal, not just for you personally, but your success will determine the success of our state. As you continue to thrive and contribute, you will also help us regain our post-pandemic stature. Does anyone remember the pandemic? It hit that area hard. You were college students, you were isolated from classmates and classes and all the normal experience that you were denied for a few years.
But, you know what? Getting through this made you so strong, so resilient. Nobody can touch you now. And everything that comes in the future – and you will have challenges. You will have many challenges personally and professionally, life will throw many curve balls at you. But you know, you hit those curve balls and you hit a home run. They say you know I graduated from college during a global pandemic. You can’t touch me now. This is your north star. When times get tough you say I got through this pandemic. I have a degree. I persevered and there is no one tougher than me. Call upon the power of the experience you have just gone through.
And if you come back here for a college reunion in fifty years to celebrate the 100th anniversary of LaGuardia College, 100, you’ll be here, reserve a seat for me. I’ll try to be here too. You come back and you look at your classmates and you’re like, wow, we’ve been through a lot together. Nobody else has the same story.
It’s like my grandparents always talk about depression. That shaped her generation. They will talk about it, not negatively. And I know this area has been hit so hard, we’ve lost so many friends and family. It hit us hard, so many people lost their jobs, but we came back. That’s the story of New York. And that’s the story your class will teach the rest of us.
But when you come back to that reunion in 50 years, I want you to be able to ask yourself the answer to this question: Does my life, my earning this degree, my ability to move on and make changes in this world, does my life have that changed lives of others? You have to be able to answer that in only one way. And the answer has to be yes. Have you committed yourself to the causes of our time? Have you campaigned for people in poverty and helped to lift other people out of their situation?
Have you spoken up today in our country for women’s right to vote amidst encroachment? Have you campaigned that we can have sane gun safety laws so we can stop crime on our streets, have you campaigned for this? Have you stood up to stop the attack on Mother Earth and protect the environment for generations to come? Did you stand up and fight these battles? Have you worked to protect the LGBTQ community, which is under constant attack in Washington? Did you get up? have you been counted did you march Did you make a change?
If the answer is yes, with all of these and the challenges we can’t even think of today that await you tomorrow, if as a true New Yorker you’ve transformed the lives of others and driven our social advancement, who has that destiny of the place that was the origin of the women’s rights movement, the labor movement, the LGBTQ movement, the environmental movement?
It all started here in New York. And you’re a New Yorker. So the weight is on your shoulders. And I’m a mother. I am the first mother to have this job. I know how to use mother guilt really hard. So I put this burden on your shoulders. I am the mother, I look at you all. Do not let me down. Don’t disappoint your mothers. That’s how I got my kids to do anything. “Oh, I’m so disappointed.” So that weight is on you today. own it It’s not a burden, it’s your way of making a difference. It will be part of your life story when you come here and talk about it in 50 more years.
Graduates and to the families that suffered and persevered and said, “My child is going to graduate,” or the spouses and partners who supported you and all your children, they’ve been through so much. So this day is for all of them too. What a great celebration. go there Step out into the great state that welcomes you with open arms and we’re waiting for you to help make this the new New York it deserves. Congratulations everyone. Many Thanks.