Graduation speech by Mercedes McCall


Friday, June 17, 2005




Good morning. As Region Executive of Banco Popular in Central Florida, it is my great pleasure to join Jose F. Mendez, President of the Sistema Universitario Ana G. Mendez; along with today’s special guests, elected officials, dignitaries, and

Most Importantly the graduating class of 2005 as WITNESSES …. Witness of what we all agree is: ‘History in the Making’. Together we celebrate the achievements, hopes and dreams of CENTRAL FLORIDA’S FIRST GRADUATING


As I marvel at today’s historical significance and what this extraordinary milestone in the life of our 32 graduates will bring to them, I can not help but to wonder IF Ana G. Mendez, visionary WOMAN and founder of this institution, ever imagined the seeds of education she planted in pursue of a more understanding

world….. would produce the bountiful fruits of a moment like this…

…this is a milestone not only for this institution but for all of us here in Central Florida.

Also, today’s graduation marks a new chapter in the fascinating history of a small Riopedrense learning center which grew to become a premier Puerto Rican educational institution and later on, expanded its global education vision to plant new seeds of hope, and to establish a new home away from home, here in

Central Florida. Now and forever, Orlando, Florida will be Ana G. Mendez’s UNIVERSITY ………new home away from home.

As with all pioneers, their work is never quite done, thus why their vision endures in the values of their legacy. And Dona Ana’s vision and her institution’s global education perspective are as timely today as the day she opened the doors of the Puerto Rico High School of Commerce over fifty five years ago.

Let’s examine for a moment the significance of the words BILINGUAL EDUCATION – and we all know that it’s- easier said than done. As Central Florida becomes the new home away from home for almost half a million Hispanics, the majority of them of Puerto Rican origin AND AS Central Florida becomes the fastest growing Puerto Rican community outside the Island, – the NEED for bilingual education is no longer a ‘nice component in the curriculum’, or something education agencies, policy makers or schools should merely consider, … but rather it should be a CORE EDUCATIONAL CRITERIA taking center stage in the integrated education of our students and future leaders, as they prepare to embrace the challenges of a GLOBAL COMMUNITY. Most importantly, it should be available to every student without exception of socio-economic condition or country of origin.

But what does bilingual mean? At a glance, it means to have the ability to communicate fluently in two languages, in this case English and Spanish.

For me, and as I personally experienced when my parents sent me from Cuba to New York many years ago, and as I continue to see through Banco Popular’s relentless strive to empower the communities we serve, being bilingual in today’s world is having the ability – and the BRAVERY – to HONOR one’s past, CONTRIBUTE in the present and EMBRACE the future.

Being bilingual in today’s world is more than a matter of curriculum discussion; it is never to forget where we came from so we can successfully find our place in the future.

SER BILINGUE ES: REAFIRMARSE EN NUESTRA HISTORIA Y PROTEGER UN LEGADO CULTURAL A TRAVES DE UNA LENGUA VIVA. For many of us, our identity as bilingual citizens begins with our cherished Spanish language. 2005 marks the 400th anniversary of Miguel de Cervantes’ ‘Don Quixote de la Mancha’.

As I examine the challenges and possibilities of bilingual education as well as the challenges and possibilities of our students today…. I can’t help but notice we are still fighting giant windmills.

And as our students prepare for the future, This message goes to our graduating class….in the same cavalier spirit of Don Quijote…Being bilingual means:….. -


And for those of you who think, this is just a ‘romantic’ idea of mine, let’s be realistic when we consider the following: Here in Central Florida, Hispanic students continue to hold the highest drop-out records due, among other factors, to the lack of a COMPLETE BILINGUAL INTEGRATED EDUCATION PROGRAM. On the other hand, as the region’s bilingual population grows, the education system is expected to welcome twice as many Hispanic students into the system every year. What are we going to do to close this gap?

Still not compelling enough case for you? Let’s talk business. Of all major corporations and small business with a presence in Central Florida, more than half require a bilingual workforce to service over 26 million tourists that come through our Airport every year – -this number does not include transient populations that visit Central Florida both for tourism, business or seeking permanent relocation.

Bilingual employees are being exported from other states and countries to work in areas of education, banking, sales, construction, marketing, communications, television, radio, etc, etc, etc. I ask again, what are we going to do to close the gap?

We could revert, or completely eliminate, this trend if local schools and education authorities get serious about providing QUALITY BILINGUAL EDUCATION as a means to invest in the future of our local economy. The economic success of any community is directly linked to its education system thus I truly believe that in bilingual education rests one of the key competitive advantages of Central Florida as a leading economic center. IT IS BILINGUAL EDUCATION LIKE THE ONE BEING PIONEERED BY THIS INSTITUATION HERE IN CENTRAL FLORIDA THAT WILL ASSURE OUR SUCCESS.

Empowering our youth and communities through education is a dream Banco Popular’s founders had in common with Dona Ana’s dream for Puerto Rico. As the island’s leading financial institution, Banco Popular, has, since its beginnings in 1893, been a firm supporter of the values of education. It was then-President, Don Rafael Carrión Pacheco’s dream he described as, “the enhancement of the social and economic welfare” of our community.

Now, 111 years later, we still make dreams happen—for our customers, our shareholders, our employees and our communities.

Since then, Banco Popular’s dream has also grown outside the island of Puerto Rico to become a leading CONTINENTAL financial institution with more than $40 billion in assets. We are particularly proud to be one of the nation’s top 10 Small Business Administration lenders—helping customers realize their dreams of business ownership and financial independence.

On behalf of our communities in the U.S. mainland, especially our Dream Makers here in Central Florida, we wish Sistema Universitario Ana G. Mendez, most success as it founders’ dream and vision of quality education grows and prospers in the same way, helping Make Dreams Happen for thousands of students and a future generation of bilingual citizens committed to delivering a better quality of life as the leaders of tomorrow’s GLOBAL COMMUNITY.

I am thrilled, honored and so proud to be able to be here with you today and see the faces of excitement in our graduates. I humbly stand here today as a WITNESS to your hopes and dreams as you prepare to embrace the opportunities and responsibilities that lie ahead as members of the first bilingual graduating class in Central Florida. I feel blessed that you have allowed me to be a witness in this milestone moment for your institution and in each of your ives.

I wished Dona Ana G. Mendez were around to see this. And then…maybe she is …

In closing, and to our graduates today, I challenge each of you to make excellence in education your life’s motto, I encourage you to make bilingual education the way of the future.

We will have many opportunities to share together, until we meet again, “recuerden siempre que ” ¡“Soñar es Poder”, Mil Gracias!