Las Vegas, N.M. – Resist division and hatred, Santa Fe New Mexico Mayor Javier Gonzales told graduates at the Highlands University main campus commencement May 13.
A record number of 1,051 students graduated from Highlands and its centers, with 633 earning their diplomas in Las Vegas. Of these total graduates, 66 percent earned bachelor’s degrees and 34 percent completed master’s degrees.
Gonzales said division makes both individual and collective progress formidable, if not impossible.
“Division reinforces that sense that other people don’t matter or that we’re in this alone. Reject that notion. You can be the antidote to division a little at a time every day, with every interaction and every decision you make. Giving in to division can only lead to hatred, anger, jealousy and spite – not what you want driving your decisions and happiness in life,” Gonzales said.
He quoted the words of American poet and author Maya Angelou, “Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in this world, but has not solved one yet.”
Gonzales urged the graduates to stay in New Mexico to pursue their careers.
“Make no mistake about it, today I’m not only here to deliver well-earned congratulations, but also to recruit. With every class we graduate, every generation of leaders we send out into our New Mexico economy, our schools, our government, and our nonprofit community, we get one step closer to taking control of our state’s destiny,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales, who was the first in his family to attend college, said it’s hard to overstate how much a college degree changes lives and opens doors. He earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from New Mexico State University.
“A college degree puts that career you’ve always dreamed of right there, just within your reach. For my fellow first-generation graduates, I truly hope there’s an extra level of satisfaction, of pride, of hope for the future. Statistically, what you’ve done today has lifted every succeeding generation in your family into the middle class, and put you all on the path to success,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales’ other public service includes two terms on the Santa Fe County Commission. He was the first Hispanic president of the National Association of Counties, leading an organization that represents 3,000 counties in the U.S. He has also chaired the Democratic Party of New Mexico.
Gonzales said he had the privilege of serving as chairman of Highlands University’s Board of Regents for five years of the university’s nearly 125-year history.
“In the arts, in science, in business, in social work and in our original mission of preparing young people to be teachers, I’ve had a front-row seat to seeing Highlands changes lives, and to the echoes of that change in our world,” Gonzales said.
He said there is nothing human potential isn’t capable of achieving when we put aside the things that keep us from working together.
“Don’t ever doubt that you have the strength, intelligence and ability to overcome obstacles,” Gonzales said.
He said that while graduating from college is an important milestone in each graduate’s journey, it’s just the beginning.
“The hope and promise in this room is awe inspiring. You’re going to go on to do incredible things. You’ll be artists, healers, builders and leaders,” Gonzales said.