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Bill Mattos: As a proud alum and community member, disappointed in Orestimba High School

HIGH SCHOOL DISAPPOINTS. I graduated from Orestimba High School more than 40 years ago, and since then I do my share of bragging about the school, the students and the parents who support it…My daughters attended district schools like me and they excelled afterward……so last week when a friend walked across the street following the high school graduation ceremonies to my home and told me “she thought something there was inappropriate” I had no idea what she meant. Then she said the valedictorian gave his speech in Spanish. Now my friend was born in the Azores, and today as vice president of a major local California company she speaks five languages. She understood every word of the speech, but she was shocked that it wasn’t given in English. So was I!

There also were other people from out of town and out of state who were dumbfounded by the speech, they didn’t understand a word of it.

Since then Facebook has lit up about Newman’s graduation. I don’t blame the student for this; however, the administration should have stopped it way before graduation night. If you want to provide folks who only speak Spanish better information, then provide the speech in Spanish with handouts, or have the students include some Spanish in a mostly English speech. But the entire speech should have never been given in only Spanish.

English is the first language of America, and in my opinion there was no place for this sort of change, especially in Newman. As we ponder the future, many businesses and contributors to TOSCA, the organization that gives so much money to our students each year (more than $100,000 this year) may demand graduation ceremonies follow a tradition that makes sense in our community. I’m an advocate of students graduating high school and college with bilingual capabilities, because so many businesses and professional organizations thrive when that happens. The majority of American businesses speak English first, but provide bilingual workers as well for those who speak another language.

If I’m wrong about my column here, then I think this subject should be debated at an upcoming school board meeting. That’s where the final decisions must be made regarding any changes in graduation tradition; especially changes that make little sense to many of us who have done so much to support our children, schools and public education.

  • Matt

    I completely agree..  you summed it up: “English is the first language of America, and in my opinion there was no place for this sort of change…”. This is just one more piece of the slow erosion of America.  How devastating is political correctness.  And what a disgrace Ceja (principal) is.

  • guest

    Completely agree!

  • Angelina

    México is America too, and El Salvador, Nicaragua, Brasil, etc. not just United States, why people always say America is just United States?

    • Georgeg1960

      In Latin America, except in Brazil, when they say America they mean all of North, Central, South America & the Caribbean. However, in Brazil where my mother is from, Europe, Canada & just about everywhere else, America is just the USA.

    • Oldfarmer

      What about the north? Why did you skip Canada???

    • Georgiana Guest Reynoso

      It is a centuries old tradition. Thirteen of the original British Noerth American separate colonies rebelled and formed a new country they named The United States of America, the citizens of which were immediately known as Americans, both their self description as well as how the people of other nations named them. The whole world has called them Americans for hundreds of years. Subsequently,in admiration and homage, many several countries throughout the continents of North and South America, once they gained their independence, named themselves in a similar fashion, for example Los Estados Unidos de Mexico (United States of Mexico) now known as Mexicans, and until 1967,

    • Georgiana Guest Reynoso

      …Republican do Estados Unidos do Brazil, today known as Brazilians.
      So while speaking of the region of the world known as the Americas we are all Americans, when speaking specifically of nationality, only citizens of the USA are called Americans.

    • Georgiana Guest Reynoso

      Wow, hard to type on this keyboard, too many typos!

    • Georgiana Guest Reynoso

      OK Angelina I will try to help you understand. It has to do with the actual official name of the country. See below for why people from the USA are known as Americans and why for contrast people from Mexico are called Mexicans and their country is Mexico, why Brazilians are from Brazil, and Americans (referring to nationality, not just region or continent though that too) are from a country that is called simply America though it’s name is longer too.

  • Aesquivez

    I have to disagree with this, I come to see how biased people are now that this has been an issue just because English speakers were not able to understand the graduation speach. When before Spanish speakers were not able to understand the graduation speach and that had never been a problem. Why didnt anyone think about accomodating everyone before? why now that only the english speakers were not able to understand a word? Why do you consider delivering the speech in handouts for spanish speakers a good idea? when you clearly know you wouldnt like it if it was delivered to you in a handout.

    • Georgeg1960

      The answer is simple: Only English is the official language of California just like Spanish is official in Mexico.

  • Patty Branco

    I agree Bill!

  • Frank Farr

    Right on, Bill. As I noted on FB, where was his faculty advisor as he prepared his speech?

  • Nancy

    English the first language of America? What America are we talking about? From what I remember English was one of the last languages introduced to America! Funny how a last minute so called change in graduation “traditions” has the non Hispanic community outraged because they couldn’t follow 2% of the ceremony. An organization demanding that graduation ceremonies make “sense”? Are you effin kidding me? Is that a threat? If any changes are to be made they better be trying to make a permanent multi-lingual ceremony because if that’s not the case then you will be opening a door that has been ignored for far too long….and it won’t be pretty! 

  • JpMack

    WOW… I just love how they say English was the first language in America.. someone didnt learn anything in Orestimba as i can see.. you people are taking this too far and you are entering a fight you just cannot win.. lol.. mexicans are the majority now in newman.. so im sorry my white folks but you are going to have to just deal with it..

    • G.S. TEARS

      All of you are wrong the original language was THE AMERICAN INDIANS …MANY MANY TRIBES….. LEAST YOU FORGET…GET IT RIGHT !!!!!!

    • G.S. TEARS

      white folks…sounds prejudice to me who ever you are?…..We are all AMERICANS ..some of all races have fought and died in wars over our FREEDOM…be happy we are American first and foremost …..Honor this country with English first,,,,then honor your Heritage second….thats cool…Its not about us and them……Just Americans and Californians PERIOD. WHAT A CONCEPT,!!!!!!! PEACE

  • Concerned

    I agree with Bill, the way the student wore his mexican sash was inapropriate. This is good USA, not mexico.If anyone in the future wants to degrade USA, move back to mexico!

    • FutureGeneration

      Very closed minded opinion the sash does not necessarily represent Mexico other cultures use the same sash and change the colors. We all have the ability to wear what we like and those sashes represented a school group if The FFA wanted to do somethingike that no one would mind

      • Paco

        if u were smart concerned then u would know that the sash represented a club in the school called HYLC or Hispanic Youth Leadership Council

    • ProudToBeAnAmerican

      It’s this type of narrow mindness and racism that makes me sad to live here. In no way did this young man degrade or dishonor our good ol’ USA for a speech given in Spanish or by wearing the sash of HYLC.

  • FutureGeneration

    So I think this town is very closed minded. Outside of Newman is the real world. I’m a graduated of Orestimba and a University graduate and I wore a sarape or sash as you call it symbolizing culture just as everyone else had. It’s not degrading America. Our country is a melting pot I’m sure our descendants are from different regions. My advice to everyone is to move forward life must go on. We have bigger issues such as budget cuts and education is suffering. We should focus our attention on improving our town as a whole instead of focusing on a speech.

  • ProudToBeAnAmerican

    Just in case you haven’t noticed, over 66% of the population here in Newman is Hispanic. And, three out of every four students are Latinos. So don’t go around saying that most of the audience didn’t understand because it’s just the opposite.

  • Mari

    I am an OHS graduate, and remember so well how disappointed I was that my parents attended my graduation, and they were not addressed in their native language (not even a “welcome”). It was until i graduated from college that my parents had an opportunity to be acknowledged in their native language, as well as other non-English speaking parents. Now, I’m graduating in 2 months from San Jose State (Master’s in Public Health), and as we prepare for the ceremony, the students have made arrangements to address the cultural diversity in our graduating class, which includes music and a message in different languages.
    We must understand that we are a culturally diverse population, sharing a living space. Allow me to clarify that “America” is a continent NOT a country, AND in America there is a range of languages spoken (including native toungues). In “America” we speak Spanish and English, to name just two languages. In Northamerica, the primary language is English (including Canada and United States).
    We must be tolerant of the needs of the diverse population that has formed this great country. Many of us had the great advantage of learning two languages as children, and have been our parents’ interpreter at the doctor for example, and as we achieve goals our parent were unable to achieve, we take any opportunity offered to make them proud. I understand this student, but I also think that the school had decision power to make it a graduation ceremony representative of all cultures in the graduating
    class.