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Orestimba High School Class of 2012 valedictory address


(Editor’s note: The following English translation of Orestimba High School valedictorian Saul Tello Jr.’s graduation address was provided by Orestimba High School. He prefaced his address by apologizing to audience members who did not understand Spanish)

It is an honor and a pleasure to stand before you as valedictorian of the class of 2012, and the student with the highest grade point average in our class of 173.  I would first of all like to thank those who have helped me arrive at this point.  I thank my father, who made sure that I always did my very best.  I also want to thank my mother, who always reminded me that I was capable of great things.    I want to thank the rest of my family, especially my older sister, as well as my teachers and friends.  I must say our class is one of the most intelligent and capable classes.  Any number of us could have achieved this valedictorian honor.  But this is also one of the classes where students have the habit of leaving things for the last minute, and I must confess that there is a bit of that same spirit in me. I apologize for having left the preparations for this speech for the last minute.

Even so, I wanted to do something that no one else had done before in their valedictorian address, and so I chose to give my speech in Spanish.  I won’t bore you with tedious details about all my four years in school, but I want to share with you some of the things that have had a major and lasting effect on me.  Don’t take me wrong, there were many valuable lessons I learned during the four years at school, and some of them were captured in sayings that we used as students.

“Be like a boss,” is my friend Jesus’ favorite saying,  because when you are the boss, you stand for something worthwhile in whatever you do; you are a leader.  This saying captures one of the qualities that I’ve seen in our class:  we have tried to do the very best in all that we have attempted.  We have tried to lead in our studies, our service to the community, our participation in school clubs, in art and many other things.  At some point during the past four years, each of us has brought our very best in something that we have done, and in doing so, have lived out this saying.  And tonight as we graduate, we stand for something important:  a successful high school education.  Let this not be the last time we will accomplish something of value.  In all that we do from this point forward, let us strive for excellence.  We must “Be like a boss.”

Leadership is not possible without a vision or a dream that gives strength for our life ahead.  And so we come to the second saying, one that my friend Ezekiel began using awhile back.  He said that we were “The Class of Dreamers.”  We have always had hopes and dreams to inspire and motivate us to move forward.  When we were kids, we dreamed of being veterinarians, fire fighters, police officers and many other things. These dreams changed and evolved as we grew and matured.  Today we dream of being lawyers, doctors, scientists, and many other things to make the world, in which we live, a better place. In the next few years, we must continue nurturing these dreams, and make them become a reality.  In doing so, we will prepare for the next chapter in this great adventure.  It will be difficult and hard work, but we must not become weary.  Remember that today we have accomplished the first half of the dream.  Today, we graduate from high school.

The third and final saying I want to share is, “Those that do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  We learned this important lesson in our history classes. The same things will happen over and over if we don’t take time to learn from what has come before us.  Thousands of others have begun their college studies and careers, and it is important to learn from the lives of others that have gone before us.  We need to learn from their successes and failures so that we can provide positive contributions to the society in which we live, regardless of our profession.

This is the moment that we leave school and enter the world as adults.  From this day forward, we must consider our contributions to the world around us, and we must make it a better place for the coming generations.  Nothing is impossible, regardless of how great or small.  If you don’t believe this take my case, as an example.   Simply by being the valedictorian I’m making changes.   By being the first Hispanic valedictorian at our school to give his address in Spanish I am showing you that change is possible.  From this day forward, I encourage each and every one of you to strive to realize your dreams.  I want you to learn from those who have succeeded, so that you will also strive to be successful in all that you do.  Above all, remember that we are the class of 2012, and that we are part of the future all around us.  Thank you for your time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1446400597 Ken Meyerkorth

    This was a beautiful speech.  And it should have been delivered in both Spanish and English.  The school not allowing the time for it was the reason for the division amongst parents of both language speaking communities.

    • Richard Bunnell

       I agree with your assessment.  However, we are a nation of Engilish spoken and written.  If this young man wanted to honor his parents in their native language to increase their understaning he should have been permitted to do so. The speech was not so long as to create too much of a lengthening of the ceremony.  Common sense would have the administration require that the speech be given in both languages.

  • javier lozano

    been Hispanic i’m proud of this young man ,but he should deliver this in english , when we all came to this country we knew we have to embrace a new way  and new language , and that made our lives better for us and our children ,delivering in the parents language spanish.chinese ,etc only divide and we already have a leader for it. que Dioes te bendiga but we need uniters

    • Carlos Garcia

      We are proud of Saul Tello Jr and the deliver of his message in Spanish was Excellent, so GOOD for him!. HE chose to address and stand in front of a community that marginalizes and rates Spanish speakers as second degree citizens here in California.   Most parents of such brilliant kids could only dream or hope to see a Son take a stand and have the pleasure to hear their sons deliver a message that MOST Spanish Speakers would ONLY dream to hear or witness one day.  He is not to be blamed and the school did the right thing to stand by his decision. As a son of an immigrant myself, I learned Spanish way before I learned English but let’s not forget that learning to Speak English is just a tool we consciously decided to take on to help us get to different places but not necessarily to better places.  What we accomplish in our lives is due to our efforts, well established work ethics and the values we learn with our families and friends.  Unfortunately I wasn’t in the ceremony myself but I would have loved to be there and hear him speak in Spanish.  The message was profound and I believe our parents need to realize that they are doing a great job by raising these kind of role models in our communities and stand by something they should be proud of, not frowned upon.

      • MR. USA

        It should have been 100% frowned upon! You think he did something great. He did a disservice to himself and disrespected his classmates and those in attendance. The Constitution is written in ENGLISH. The national language is ENGLISH. You want to tout your version of spanish, go to where it belongs, in mexico. Even the good people of Spain purposely changed their language to not be associated with mexico. That tells you something, doesn’t it?

        • http://www.facebook.com/humberto.gomezguillen Humberto Gomez Guillen

          So what do Spaniards speak now, Esperanto? And your national Anthem is also sang in Spanish. And the Guadalupe-Hidalgo Treaty guaranties that the customs, language and property of Mexicans will be respected. And contrary to popular belief, English is not the official language of these United States. And I bet those who did not understand his speech did not pass their Spanish class and therefore they did not deserve their diplomas. Want more?

  • Scttsmth63

    If you want to speak spanish go to a spanish speaking country. this is disgusting. take his diploma.

    • Wow15

      You’re disgusting. If this isn’t a Spanish speaking country why do they offer Spanish classes and other languages to students in high school and collegesince this is an “English” speaking country? Why isn’t anyone protesting about that?

  • kathleen edwards

    How about saying, instead, “By being the first AMERICAN Hispanic valedictorian at our school to give his address in ENGLISH I am showing you THAT CHANGE is possible.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/humberto.gomezguillen Humberto Gomez Guillen

      When you do your speech, you say what you want to say. Take your turn.

  • debdessaso

    Why didn’t they just provide a Spanish or English translator?

    • http://www.facebook.com/humberto.gomezguillen Humberto Gomez Guillen

      Because one of the requirements to get your diploma is a number of credits in a foreign language. (Foreign to England, that is, but not to America, and certainly not to California.)

      • unphased

        Actually, it’s language or art…. but that’s ok.

  • Pat Riot

     Say what you will about me, but I would have interrupted his speech until it was given in English or I was arrested and removed.

    • RealTalk

      Your comment says slot about you. My guess is you problably didn’t even graduate from high school.

    • http://www.facebook.com/humberto.gomezguillen Humberto Gomez Guillen

      I would be happy to oblige.

  • mandy

    It was a very nice speech and all in attendance should have been given an opportunity to understand it.  It’s unfortunate that the administration did not make it available in English as well.  That was very poor judgement on their part creating ill feelings on a day that should bring only joy and pride for those in attendance.  They have a lot of parents and students to answer to.  How sad!

  • kat

    He did nothing wrong or illegal … he just should’ve figured out a way to be more considerate of non-Spanish speakers and posted a translation or something in English. Speech 101 … think of your audience. If a large group can’t understand the language you’re speaking in, find a way to make them understand. Or else their time is wasted, and people will be upset.

  • Angela

    I think as valedictorian he
    should have been allotted more time to deliver the speech in both
    Spanish and English. If he wanted to honor his parents and they only
    gave him time for one speech, then I think he did the right thing in
    sticking to his guns. Speaking at a graduation ceremony is a personal
    thing, so he’s perfectly right to deliver it however he wants.

    For everyone who’s belly-aching that the speech should’ve been in English I invite you to read our nation’s constitution. There is no official language in the US. We’re a nation of immigrants and in the course of our history we have learned (even if not everyone remembers) that popularity doesn’t always determine whether something is good or bad. That said, even if you have a majority of English-speakers this young man was speaking for what is very personal for him. As a nation with a *heterogeneous* population, we ought to respect that.

  • Student Advocate

    It seems the speech was suppose to be directed to the students. How many of them understood it? That is to bad the students lost out on thier graduation. This is a time for the students to embrace their accomplishments. GOOD JOB OHS GRADUATES…

    • http://www.facebook.com/humberto.gomezguillen Humberto Gomez Guillen

      If they lost out on their graduation, they can go back and retake Spanish to see if they can learn it the second time around. Then apply for a diploma!

  • unphased

    The Valedictorian speech is not for the parents. It’s for thew students. It’s supposed to inspire them. When giving any speech, you need to know your audience. The audience was the entire senior class. They ALL speak and understand english. Our english emergence programs ensure that. Not all of the class speaks or understands spanish. This wasn’t a change, this was a setback. He spoke to a small fraction of his audience when he could have had his words reach all of them. To say that delivering his speech entirely in spanish is him making a change, is self-important. It didn’t do anything more than alienate his english-only speaking classmates. The translation is a case of too little too late, as most of the senior class is not even going to read this. Too bad. it might have actually inspired them.

    • http://www.facebook.com/humberto.gomezguillen Humberto Gomez Guillen

      So what other foreign language did they learn at School. French?

      • unphased

        As a matter of fact, yes. French was available while the class of 2012 was at OHS.

  • orestimbagrad

    I am beyond offended. I graduated from Orestimba in 1997, and this self agrandizing brat is claiming to be the forst Mexican valedictorian at this school , and the only one to deliver his speech in spanish. He is not the first Hispanic valedictorian by a long shot. Nor is he the first one to gice his speech in spanish. He is however the first one to think he’s so important that he didn’t also give it in English. This speech is for your classmates, not you. You were so busy patting yourself on the back, that you ostracized the majority of your classmates. I went to scho with kids like you. I happen to be a Mexican who doesnt think speaking in only Spanish makes me better. I also happen to knkw that the community you accuse of making you a second class citizen would hire you or me before any white person. So get off your high horse. You’re not the first smart Mexican in Newman, and when you get into the real world, you’ll find you aren’t special either. If you hate English speakers so much, then leave.

    • http://www.facebook.com/humberto.gomezguillen Humberto Gomez Guillen


  • http://www.facebook.com/humberto.gomezguillen Humberto Gomez Guillen

    This is the problem with Hispanics. We don’t even get along with one another. We are #1 in the world in envy and malinchismo.

  • http://www.facebook.com/humberto.gomezguillen Humberto Gomez Guillen

    Do you hear the dogs barking Sancho? That means we are advancing!

  • http://www.facebook.com/humberto.gomezguillen Humberto Gomez Guillen


  • Uncle John

    Its funny how ppl don’t like CHANGE, whether its a graduation speech, clothes, shoes, soda bottles r now plastic bottles, presidents, the weather, language, no matter what the CHANGE someone is going to b upset. Well its done, its over with, maybe the school has learned from it, or maybe not. Besides even if the speech is suppose to b for the classmate, how many of them do u think were actually listening to the speaker, whether it was in english or spanish. Can u honestly say u remember every speach during ur graduation, n u gave ur 100 percent attention to each speaker, now b honest. I bet u most of those kids were on there cell phones, or trying to get ready to throw some confetti, or thinking about which or who’s party there going to, n how they r going to get there, or that they were looking around at all the people there, trying to see if they know anyone there at there graduation,or who they want to give a graduation kiss too. If u had a graduate on that day, ask them if they remember what english speech they were listening to, n what it was about. Or better yet ask them if they can name all the speakers on that day. Sounds to me whoever went to that graduation was bored, n when the student got up n started his spanish speaking speech it woke a few people up, n that started all this anger, so can anyone who was at that graduation remember the english speakers n what they said in there speech. Again B Honest.

  • Ladym

    This was an excellent speech, too bad some of the audience/classmates couldn’t understand it. I think it was wrong to give it only in Spanish. Poor decision by admin; he should have given it in both languages or an interpreter should have been translating it into English.

  • michaelhome

    America America the beautiful English always !!