Mercury News: Pelosi gives commencement for San Jose State grads
SAN JOSE -- Sporting decorative and expressive mortarboards, San Jose State University graduates wore their hearts and hopes on their heads Saturday at exuberant commencement ceremonies at Spartan Stadium.
Headgear included a giant yellow Lego block, a beachcomber hat, and many names in glitter as San Jose State awarded degrees to hundreds to graduating seniors and master's degree candidates.
"I took the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference," read Phuong Hoang's mortarboard. The graduating English major said that everyone in her family is becoming a doctor. But inspired by teachers who guided her when she immigrated at age 9 knowing no English, Hoang, 24, plans to earn a teaching credential. "I want to become an English teacher to help students overcome barriers."
The university awarded more than 8,600 bachelor's and master's degrees, and a handful of doctorates, this year. About half of the graduates were the first in their families to earn a degree, San Jose State spokeswoman Pat Lopes Harris said. Perhaps a quarter of the graduates attended the ceremonies under sunburn-sparing cloudy skies.
Commencement speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, the minority leader and former House speaker, noted the class's diversity reflected the wisdom of the U.S. motto of e plurbius unum -- "from many, one." In a mild political plug in an otherwise traditional graduation speech, Pelosi urged, "we must pass a comprehensive immigration bill soon."
Graduate Crystal Mendoza's cap read, "I'd rather be at Hogwarts," Harry Potter's school.
"Yes! If I could? I'd rather be hanging out with Dumbledore," said Mendoza, 21, of San Mateo -- although that probably would have disappointed the 15 family members who turned out to witness the English major turn her tassel.
Likewise, Abhishek Khule, who was receiving a master's degree in electrical engineering, posted a turn on a Harry Potter phrase. "Master has given its master. Dobby's free," read his cap, reflecting the joy of an elf winning his freedom.
"I'm feeling great," said Khule, 24, who wore a necklace of Snickers bars. His parents traveled from Pune, India to see their son become the first in the family to earn a graduate degree.
And of course, there were many turns on the theme on cap of Diana Carolina Gomez, 23, of Watsonville: "Gracias Papa y Mama." and "Orgullo Hispano" (Hispanic pride).
Pelosi noted that she followed a non-traditional path to power. After graduating from college, she married and raised five children. When she considered running for Congress and consulted her youngest daughter, still in high school, about embarking on a career that would take her away from home, her daughter replied, "Mother, get a life!"
Pelosi ran, won and eventually became the first female speaker of the House.
"When my moment came, I was ready. I knew my power," she said. "My prayer for you is that you know your power."
The university awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters to alumnus Bob Ladouceur, the football coach who won 151 consecutive games over 12 seasons at De La Salle High in Concord.
"This is where I learned how to learn," said Ladouceur, a 1977 criminal justice graduate. "The more knowledge you obtain, you realize how much more there is to know.
Some graduates already had taken that attitude to heart.
"Test the limits and break through," read the cap of Andrea Trevino, 23, of San Mateo. She had come across that quote online and penned it on her cap. "You always know you have to be better than you are today," said Trevino, a hospitality management major. She's already got her career steps planned, she hopes, up the corporate ladder.
But, she added, "you never know where life takes you."