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Garza challenges graduates to create a better society full of promise, purpose and brave acts of decency

Antonio O. Garza Jr., the United States ambassador to Mexico, told graduating students at The University of Texas at Austin Saturday, May 20, that one of the tests they will face in life–over and over again–is how they treat people who are different than themselves.

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AUSTIN, Texas—Antonio O. Garza Jr., the United States ambassador to Mexico, told graduating students at The University of Texas at Austin Saturday, May 20, that one of the tests they will face in life—over and over again—is how they treat people who are different than themselves.

Antonio O. Garza Jr.

Antonio O. Garza Jr.

He urged the graduates to embrace the differences that have given such strength to the United States.

“We have come far as a society. We are no longer the Jim Crow nation that buried the hopes of so many long before we buried their bodies,” said Garza to the graduating class of 2006, offering them “some thoughts about this fast-moving world you are about to enter.”

Garza, an alumnus of The University of Texas at Austin who was recognized as one of five Outstanding Young Texas Exes in 1989, said the task of creating a better society “is not done until the invisible are invisible no more. Until all hearts accept what no law can mandate—and that is to love one another. To respect one another. The history of our nation is vivid proof that there is strength in difference.”

The ambassador said the United States did not get where it is today “off the sweat of just one race, one religion or one culture. It took all of working together in what Martin Luther King called the ‘inescapable network of mutuality.’ What affects one citizen, affects all citizens.”

The American dream is a powerful draw and people who are fortunate to live here are richly blessed, but often take it for granted, Garza said.

“And if you ever need a reminder of all that we have,” Garza said, “simply ask any of the hard-working immigrants here why they endured days in a scorching desert or why they crossed an ocean in a crowded boat to get to the United States. They will tell you that they came in search of opportunity…in search of a better life. They will tell you they risked their lives just so they too, could have a shot at achieving our American dream.

“Sharing that dream is one of the great challenges of our time—and one that requires both wisdom and compassion. Simply building walls does not speak America to me. I know we can be both a welcoming society and a secure and lawful one.”

Garza said that “when we welcome others we are all stronger as a society if we share what we must provide to every citizen of Texas: a quality education that is only available through well-funded schools and institutions of higher learning that focus on high standards, strong curricula and excellent teachers.”

Advice offered by Garza to the graduates “for the road ahead” included his belief that families are the backbone of our society.

“The steadiest rock you will ever find in your life,” he said, “is your family—both the one you have now and the one you will make for yourself in the future. Nothing else will ever come close.”

Garza also said it is people who matter most. He said that while the Internet is convenient, graduates should “skip the text messaging once in a while. Pick up a pen and paper and write a letter—with a real postage stamp—to someone you love. Make real personal connections with others. Nurture those relationships. They are what will help you find your way in life.”

The ambassador also urged the graduates to find their purpose and to set the bar high, “but don’t let success alone be your goal.” He urged them to use success to make a real difference in the world.

“Let this glorious world that God has entrusted to us move you,” he said. “Take care of it—and take care of each other. Life has shown me that if you can’t appreciate all that is awe-inspiring around you, it’s not likely that you’ll even begin to understand the miracle that is the person standing right next to you.”

Garza said his hope for the graduates is that they will all join in the work of transforming communities to help make them a better place for everyone to live and work and raise their families.

A transcript of Garza’s speech is available on the Commencement 2006 Web site.

For more information contact: Robert D. Meckel, Office of Public Affairs, 512-475-7847.