As always, it is an honor to gather our DCCCD family together.
But it isn't easy to gather us together in one place. It takes a lot of work.
Let me start by thanking the entire district conference day planning group, including the District Marketing and Foundation teams who have worked tirelessly to put this Conference together.
Please join me in once again thanking our Board Chair, Charletta Compton for her leadership.
I also want to thank Trustees Monica Lira Bravo and Wesley Jameson for being here today as well.
It is great to be back together as we kick off another academic year.
This is an exciting time as we begin to do the good work we do to guide individuals on the path to greater prosperity.
While it is great to gather in this room, outside these doors we see a world divided.
I had planned to speak about the DCCCD Network in detail today.
It was going to be the greatest speech in the history of ever.
But don't worry; you'll still get to hear it at some point, when I come visit your campus later this Fall or Spring.
While a conversation about the DCCCD Network is important, the events of last weekend changed the topic for today because there's no way to ignore the divisions taking place across our country, our cities, and even at college campuses.
We all watched in horror as hate made its way to Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend and onto the campus of the University of Virginia.
I know and want them to know that racism and bigotry have no place in the world today, much less our classrooms and our college campuses.
But due to the political climate in our country, hate has come out of the shadows and into our streets, our campuses, and certainly onto our social media feeds.
Here's an image that popped up on mine the other day.
Some of you may have seen this image before.
And it probably invokes different thoughts and reactions.
It's real. It's not fake or photo shopped.
It is an actual photo taken in Georgia in 1992.
That's right. 1992. Not 1962.
It may be hard to tell from my gray hair, but I remember the angst and division that played out on our college campuses during the 60s and early 70s.
But that photo was 1992. Hard to believe that in 1992 that world would exist.
Fast-forward twenty-five years later to today and we are still dealing with familiar themes of racism, discrimination, and underlying disparity of opportunity.
Through court decisions, legislation, cultural changes, and globalization, these should be settled issues.
But clearly, they aren't.
Apparently, anger and hate have been lurking just below the surface waiting for an opportunity to come out, sometimes stoked and encouraged by the words of others.
And out they have come.
Neo-Nazis, divisive flags, mobs with torches, the KKK, and white supremacists gathered at college campuses.
Don't get me wrong, I was not oblivious to the fact these perspectives of discrimination still exist.
I grew up in East Texas at a time when tolerance could sometimes be in short supply.
But it did exist in our home and others like it.
There are people in my life who I love and care about deeply that have a different skin color than I do, that worship differently, that have different sexual orientations.
And guess what we do?
We learn from each other.
These are people that I deeply care about and respect.
I haven't walked in their shoes, but their impact on my life gives me an awareness that while on the surface some progress has been made, there is still work to be done.
Many of you have heard me tell the story that my career started at Cedar Valley College shortly after it opened.
Cedar Valley needed adjuncts and counselors.
And I needed a job.
I had no idea then how transformative that job would be.
How it would shape my career and my life.
When I walked into the classroom as an adjunct, I was the youngest person in the room by about 10 years.
The classroom was filled with a diverse group of students with different backgrounds who were chasing their hopes and dreams.
While I hadn't walked in their shoes, we all were walking in the same direction; looking for an opportunity for a better life for ourselves and our families.
Our classrooms are no different today.
Since my time at Cedar Valley, I have lived my life for decades committed to taking action and being a voice that contributes to the elimination of discriminatory treatment of others.
Many in this room have done the same to help influence change and make progress against bigotry, hate and division.
And I applaud you.
I believe hate groups that violently rear their heads intent on threatening continued progress.
I refuse to stand by and watch my friends, colleagues, and students be treated with this level of violent hatred or any hatred for that matter, because of their race, sexual orientation or any other characteristic.
I don't care what you call it; what labels they use. Hate is hate.
You tell me – Do you think these groups have a place in America?
I don't think so.
And yet, here we are in 2017, we find ourselves
still having this conversation?
We're still having these battles?
It is heartbreaking and destructive. Again.
That photo reminds us that hate is taught; it is learned.
The good news is that we're in the teaching businesses.
If fact, DCCCD was founded at a great time of division itself in 1965.
Dallas had just been designated as the City of Hate following the assassination of President Kennedy.
The Dallas school district was struggling with segregation issues.
DCCCD was intentionally designed to be a solution to this division.
DCCCD was born out of inclusion with the premise that whoever you were, wherever you came from, you could find the path to a better life.
Isn't that what we all want for our families? For our own children?
Let me talk about what we stand for. The DCCCD Way.
Ever since our doors opened, in our classrooms - even with diverse opinions and thoughts - we teach inclusion, not exclusion.
That is the DCCCD Way.
Prepare our communities to succeed
Help businesses to prosper
Inspire individuals to achieve
Improve the quality of life for all
Regardless of race, background, religion, country of origin, gender, orientation, and economic circumstances
DCCCD was founded as a path beyond division and as one toward hope.
That has not changed.
This is still while we exist.
As chancellor of DCCCD, I am committed to following the DCCCD Way, to ensure we remain a place focused on who we include, not whom we exclude.
Even here in Texas, we find ourselves in a state divided.
We see incidences of loud voices trying to drown out the voices of others.
Civility is often now displaced by hostility.
Just recently, as the Texas Legislature was concluding the regular session, legislators almost exchanged blows on the floor of the House chambers over immigration and sanctuary cities.
Increasingly the state is focusing on issues about who can live here, who can work here, which bathroom you can use and where you can carry a gun.
I'm not saying policymakers shouldn't have passionate public policy debates, but really?
Debating to the point that it almost gets to bodily harm?
All voices should be heard, not just the loudest ones.
Here locally, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings has talked about Dallas as a tale of two cities, which he describes as a story of the haves and the have-nots.
We know the poverty gap is widening.
We have construction cranes on the horizon all around North Texas as companies are moving in, and creating job opportunities along with them.
You can hardly drive downtown here because of all the construction activity.
And yet, we are just behind Detroit in terms of rising poverty.
In fact, one if four Dallas County residents lives in poverty.
We have children who know they are going to college.
And we have children living in generational poverty, who cannot comprehend a future beyond the one they see in their neighborhoods every day.
They have little hope that they can find a way out.
It turns out that we all want the same thing.
A chance to pursue our dreams.
To get a fair shake.
To have an equal opportunity.
What is the solution to division within our country? Our state? And to combating poverty here locally?
We all know the answer to these questions.
The answer is the same: Education.
Education is the solution to economic prosperity.
Education is the only way to get a better job.
Education is the solution to those who feel the divide between winners and losers and feel they are
always on the losing side.
Education is the solution to those who feel like they've been left behind in this economy.
These are troubling and confusing times.
For many of our students, troubling times are all they know.
And they are skeptical about education or they find it confusing.
But education gives them a fighting chance.
How many of you got into this profession because you can make a difference for all people?
Don't you believe that everybody deserves the opportunity for a better life?
We all do.
But unfortunately, those that seek to divide us often decide that a college campus is the place to gather to focus their anger.
How many times just this past year have we seen these gatherings at college campuses across the country?
Virginia, Missouri, and others may seem far away.
But it never is far away.
Just last summer, hate came to our front doors at El Centro.
Five officers lost their lives protecting others.
And now, this week, can you imagine if you are a parent of a person of color, Jewish, or immigrant student who is about to begin their college journey at the University of Virginia?
Can you imagine what that car ride to campus is like?
How hopeful do you think they are?
That is unacceptable.
They should not feel afraid about getting an education.
College campuses are and must be a place to debate and explore and understand opposing views.
A place for discourse. Not a place for hate.
We might have students who share similar views as those who showed up in Charlottesville.
So let's educate them.
Because ultimately, education is the solution.
That means that we're part of the solution.
The good news for us and for them, is that's the business we're in.
We get to do something about it.
We get to be a part of the solution.
Yet somehow, while we value inclusion and diversity of thought, there is a segment of the population that is threatened by that.
Let me be clear, I believe it is our responsibility to be a part of the solution.
It demands that we aggressively get out into our communities and bring individuals into our halls for a brighter future and greater understanding about one another.
It means we seek new partnerships and expand existing ones.
It means we increase opportunity through early college high schools and other partnerships.
It means we partner with universities to streamline the transfer process.
It means we partner with industry to align with needed job skills.
If we just sit idly by and wait for people to come to us, then
we're part of the problem.
If we're not looking for new ways to remove barriers to get people in and through our doors, then we are not fulfilling our responsibilities.
If we are institution-centric and not student-centric in everything we do, then we are failing.
Two years ago, I began talking about the DCCCD Network.
I've done my best to explain that the DCCCD Network is not a thing or a place.
It is an attitude.
It is a way of intentionally engaging with others.
It is all about us making connections with others to get people where they need to go to find opportunity.
But let's be honest, even internally, we have old arguments and divisions that still exist.
Academic programs vs. workforce programs.
College A vs. college B.
Colleges vs. District.
And the list goes on and on, with more invented daily.
Guess what? These divisions are artificial and do nothing to contribute to the conversation about the DCCCD Way.
The good news is that we're also finding ways to move the DCCCD Network forward.
And I look forward to sharing more with you when I visit your campus.
Each of our college presidents is committed to getting out in their communities, not for the benefit of their college or for DCCCD, but for individuals and employers.
They are knocking on doors and breaking down barriers to show the hope that exists within our walls.
You all are an integral part of the DCCCD network, regardless of what your role is all about.
Regardless of title. Regardless of position.
You are the DCCCD network.
You connect people and ideas.
You are the solution to solving the problems of those in need.
You are hope.
The DCCCD Network cannot function without you.
You all are experts at what you do.
You see first-hand where we can do better to remove barriers that are in way of getting individuals to where they need to be.
Please continue to be a part of the solution.
I want to ask you to send your thoughts on ways we can improve and streamline the DCCCD Network.
Send an email to this address with the barriers you see.
I mean it.
I challenge you to really think about what we together – large or small – can do close the gaps of division that exist.
To make The DCCCD Way a reality, to ensure that we are supporting economic growth, strong families and improving the quality of life in our community, we must identify and lower our real and perceived barriers and work together like never before.
In many ways, the DCCCD Network is not new, and yet, it can change everything.
I need your help to find new and better ways to connect to our community, individuals, employers, but most importantly, our students.
We can't do everything, but it is our responsibility to do all that we can.
I don't know about you.
I hope you will stand with us as we transform lives and communities, creating hope and futures, bridging what divides us through education.