Marguerite Salazar reminds ASC grads of their rights and responsibilities

(12-20-2010)

Many families braved Colorado's icy roads to attend Adams State's commencement ceremony Dec. 18. While the weather was cold, the mood was warm, as the college awarded 9 associate's degrees and 82 bachelor's degrees.

Recent graduate receives congratulatory hug in the Plachy Hall Fieldhouse immediately following the Adams State College 2010 Fall Commencement Ceremony.

Recent graduate receives congratulatory hug in the Plachy Hall Fieldhouse immediately following the Adams State College 2010 Fall Commencement Ceremony.

Nicholas A. Karpilo presented a message on behalf of the graduating class. He earned a B.S. in business administration/health care administration and has belonged to the business fraternity, Phi Beta Lambda.

"Now we will truly begin our lives. This is not just a celebration of all we have accomplished, but also a welcome to the rest of our lives," he said. Karpilo referred to Khalil Gibran's analogy poem that says parents are to archers as children are to arrows. "Once the arrow is released, there is no more the archer can to do change the course of flight. Thank you to all our archers for helping us get closer to the bullseye."

The commencement address was given by Marguerite Salazar, Adams State graduate of 1975 and '76. Adams State President David Svaldi said: "Marguerite's successful career demonstrates that greatness can come from a small college and a small town."

Marguerite Salazar, Adams State class of 1975 and 1976, addresses the candidates during the Adams State College 2010 Fall Commencement Ceremony.

Marguerite Salazar, Adams State class of 1975 and 1976, addresses the candidates during the Adams State College 2010 Fall Commencement Ceremony.

Prior to accepting her new position, Salazar served as President/CEO of Valley-Wide Health Systems, Inc., (VWHS) in Alamosa for over 21 years. Arriving at Valley-Wide in 1985 to implement the first federal grant of $1.4 million, she rose to become the CEO in 1989. She turned the organization, then consisting of three small clinics, into one of the largest and most successful rural community health centers in the country, providing primary care to over 40,000 residents of the San Luis, Lower Arkansas, and Upper Arkansas valleys in Southern Colorado and in the western corner of Mancos, Colorado. She earned a bachelor's and master's degree from Adams State in 1975 and '76, respectively.

Harkening back to her own graduation ceremony, she said: "My diploma reads that with my degree, I am afforded all the 'Rights, Responsibilities, Privileges and Honors hereto entrusted.' It sounds pretty important, and I'd like to spend a few moments talking about what I think that means.

"You have the right to apply for jobs that require a degree. That's really logical and some might say pretty obvious, but that gives you a privilege that only you have. You should feel encouraged that, while the unemployment rates are around nine and a half percent in the country, for people with a college degree, the percentage is half that. Earning a college degree puts you in a much stronger position to be able to find a job and to have a career that is meaningful. That is one of those privileges the diploma mentions."

She moved on to address the responsibilities a higher education confers. "If you want to be remembered for more than the size of your income or the square footage of your living space, seek to serve some good greater than your own. . . The big question before you today is not how can you use the degree you have earned at Adams State to achieve personal fame and fortune. The question is: how can you use what you've learned in college to benefit your family, your community, your country, and your world. In short, how can you serve?"

Salazar noted her work in health care is devoted to promoting healthy lifestyles and preventive care, and added: "There is another health crisis in this country that I feel has to do with the responsibility portion of my diploma. This second level of crisis in which activity produces beneficial effects and inactivity poses unacceptable risks, especially for our youngest generation, concerns our civic health. American democracy suffers from a lack of active participation among our citizens. For many reasons, many people view civics as a kind of spectator sport-something to be viewed from the filters of media outlets and personalities. I know that you have learned how important exercise is for physical health, but I want to ask you if you are exercising your civic duties."

Many people aren't apathetic, she said, "They just really didn't understand how to participate. When I have invited people to attend their neighborhood caucuses, I have been told 'What if I do something wrong? What if I say the wrong thing?' The short answer is, you can't. We are government. We make the rules if we just show up. There is nothing more satisfying in a democracy to talk to people at their door and explain your issue or talk about a candidate, and then to ask them to vote." Salazar said her family always celebrated election day, with the children able to stay home from school to follow the results.

"On their 18th birthday, we gave each of them a copy of the 1994 South African ballot. It was the year that Nelson Mandela ran and won. Nelson Mandela was the first South African president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. It was a remarkable achievement for a man who had spent 27 years of a life sentence in prison after being convicted of sabotage. We gave them the ballot as a gift, so that they would never take their right to vote lightly," she explained.

"No one knows what your life will be like ten years from now," Salazar concluded. "If someone had told me my life would change so dramatically a year ago, I wouldn't have believed them, but I do expect that America will wake up running every morning, and that many of you will be leading the way. I will leave you with a powerful quote by Nelson Mandela as I end my talk: 'Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.'"

By Julie Waechter