An Inspiring Valedictorian Speech About Motivation

Her photo holding up strawberries in her cap and gown drew me into a story about a valedictorian speech about motivation.

I stopped reading the newspaper years ago. My husband, Wayne and Mother devour every word, everyday. They will occasionally show me a comic strip I just have to read, an obituary of a contemporary or an article that moved them. Today Wayne suggested I read a front page article in the Lakeland Ledger.

Some Stories Are Worth Reading

I liked the front page photo of Mulberry High School’s valedictorian, Brenda Alvarez-Lagunas holding a cardboard container of bright red strawberries. These berries are a symbol of the motivation she felt to become the first person in her family to graduate from high school. Furthermore, she isn’t the oldest child.

Her entire speech is printed inside the article about her. You can read the article and her speech here.

Why is her Speech Different?

A couple of things impressed me about her speech. Her words are interesting, insightful, bring you into the world of her family, show her compassion for others who have more advantages than her. You might say, “What advantages could this child of migrant workers have?”

Here are her advantages.

  • Her parents are hard working.
  • They encouraged her to make the most of the situation.
  • She worked alongside her parents in the fields.
  • School employees like Miss Danny saw her potential and helped.

Her parents provided her inspiration and they illustrated how difficult life is without an education. Brenda turned the sweat of her brow into motivation that earned her the valedictorian spot. Furthermore, her focus resulted in a full scholarship to Stanford, 3,000 miles from the small, rural town of Mulberry, Florida.

I applaud you, Brenda Alvarez-Lagunas. You make me proud to be an American where anything is still possible.

Closing a Chapter in My Life

The past 10 days, I’ve flown from Florida to Denver, driven 200 miles to my mother’s home with my sister and son, filtered through mountains of paperwork, pulling out the memories my mother saved, tossed 20 tall kitchen garbage bags, filled 30 boxes of things I couldn’t part with, carefully added a few pieces of furniture and ironwork my late father handcrafted, and now I’m driving a 16’ moving truck (with my 37-year-old son as wingman) the 2,400 miles back to the county where I was born and my husband, 90-year-old mother, and dogs are waiting for me.

Loading Up
Loading Up

Visiting a Sacred Place

The last thing we did before my sister flew back to Orlando was to walk up to the clearing among the rocks where Mom and I spread my father’s ashes in 2015. Just last year I could still see remnants in the dry desert soil. Now it seemed the landscape had changed the past twelve months, but I found my intersecting landmarks; a dead piñon pine and the outcropping where my husband and I exchanged our marriage vows exactly three years ago. A sagebrush had doubled in size just outside the small circle rimmed with rocks, placed with love and care. Each of us scooped up a few spoonfuls of sand to take home, placing them in emptied spice containers from the kitchen cabinet. I thought, “The remnants of the spice or herb will add an exotic hint when we open them later.”

May 2016 Wedding Location
May 2016 Wedding Location

Leaving is Hard for Everyone

Neighbors helped us load our belongings in the rented moving truck, handshakes and hugs completed the task. One special friend remained behind, visiting in the living room where she had listened to my Mother’s stories about Florida and the many backpacking and later RV trips she and my Dad had taken over the 65 years they were together. The friend and I held each other tight, soothing our sobs with mutual back rubs. We dried our tears on our sleeves and as I held the screen door, she said, “Text me every morning and night you are on the road. And give Sue a big hug from me!”

Golden Neighbors
Golden Neighbors

One Last Look

With the truck packed, we could have jumped in and started our journey. We were drawn to the high rock behind the house, dubbed La Garita Rock by the locals.

Larry said, “Let’s make one more trip up there, Mom.”

La Garita - Lookout Rock
La Garita – Lookout Rock

I found an old cane to steady myself as I carefully placed my hiking boots amongst the prickly pear and hedgehog cactus with their bright orange-red blossoms opening in the waning light. Working slowly toward the summit, we turned and surveyed the view. The northern section of the San Luis Valley laid out before us, the Great Sand Dunes clearly seen 60 miles to the east at the base of the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Just below us to the left stood the house my parents lived in during their retirement of 30 years. Moving toward the right I saw the historic church just outside the gate to my parent’s property, Capilla San Juan Bautista. The new red metal roof in sharp contrast to the white stucco on the thick adobe walls. Just beyond, the metal gate of the Carnero Creek Cemetery with scores of white crosses within.

The place will pass from the Anderson’s to the next family, but the memories and friends we’ve made will always live in our hearts. I know I’ll return soon…

Preparing for a Trip – What I’m Reading

This past week, I’ve been preparing for a trip. I’m busy pulling everything together including the books I’ll want to read.

A part of my travel plans for the summer involved finalizing my Global Entry pass with an interview. After nearly 3 months from my application, I was able to complete the process and use my pass ID.

Travel and a Global Entry pass

I heartily suggest you get one if you are planning any international travel. The cool thing is it includes TSA Pre status. At least I won’t have to worry about standing in a long line at Orlando International Airport this week. Here’s the link to the online information to start your application:

What I’m Reading

When I’m traveling I love using my Kindle. I share book titles with my husband who is an avid reader of mystery and suspense. Currently I’m reading Greg Iles Cemetery Road. I’ll also load The Quiet Game by Iles, Book 1 in his Penn Cage Series before I leave the unlimited Internet I enjoy at home.


Do you read books in order by date for a fiction author? I sure do!

I read fiction for fun, but honestly most of my reading is non-fiction, including memoir, which is the genre I write in. As a life-long student, I’m always reading something that is instructional whether for my work or my life. Here are two of these books I’m reading.

Be the Gateway by Dan Blank and Shimmering Images, A Handy Little Guide to Writing Memoir by Lisa Dale Norton.