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Office of the President

A Passionate Patience

On the investiture of Dr. Eduardo M. Ochoa as President, California State University, Monterey Bay

“[Y]ou have to get used to an inhuman scale; you have to understand geological time.”
Wallace Stegner, “Thoughts in a Dry Land,” 1972

Small idea, that rock holds memory. Place your hand on a petroglyph carved

eons ago. Feel the weight of ancient peoples. Hear them file past,backs weighted

with baskets dripping sardine, abalone, mussel. See them toil beneath shade of oaks

grown from acorns planted before they were born, copses of tanbark, black, canyon live oak

to sustain generations. Dream these people whose lives cycled fog and rain, sun and cloud,

who knew when young growth and small death signaled salmon run, berry bushes thick

with fruit, acorns piling inland, each season harbinger of its own unique harvest.

Now spring forward, thousands of years. Let us dream alongside

scientists who theorized the existence of a universal energy field.

Derided by colleagues yet undeterred, they followed small but definite

clues. Imagine Higgs bosons, elementary particles which give other particles

their mass. Imagine the thrill fifty years later when the CERN collider

produced results that made a vision real, the Nobel Prize magnificent reward.

And what of Voyager 1, launched 1977, messenger to the stars. On September 12,

2013, NASA scientists announced the probe escaped the heliosphere and entered

interstellar space, the farthest human-made object from earth. Imagine

beings deciphering its golden record, greetings from Earth in 55 languages, sound

of wind and surf, gull and whale; blues and Bach alongside mariachi music.

In the early 1990s, when base closures threatened our fort and communities,

native sons rallied the troops. Cabinet member and state legislator evoked

a century-old history of cavalry parading from presidio to Monterey.

They summoned the memory of tens of thousands of raw recruits, young sons

and daughters trained for Vietnam, many never to return, their tragedies

heightened in the wake of a nation’s discord. Our visionaries pursued

defense committees, a president, appropriations committees, for funds

to transition, for land use, for economic development, for ordnance disposal,

for a university that would serve local populations, their rallying cry,

“swords to ploughshares,” echoing a central coast yearning.

Now imagine faculty abandoning tenured positions, heading west

towards rumors of a new university committed to long-ignored students

and silenced communities. Hear how their voices echoed, shadow

of moth wing against high windows, ideas billowing in a cavernous hall,

splitting walls and roofs with visions of a 21st century campus surging to meet

the Pacific Rim. Their voices carried, flames scouring oak and manzanita, lifting

newly released pine cone and seed pod, promise of new growth for the coming time.

As if bells had rung the first day of school, the tri-county region dispatched

its young and not-so-young, the first- and fifth- generations, immigrant

activist, environmentalist surfer, gang member turned filmmaker, the drummer,

the returned vet. With each new day of learning, old worlds drifted through

barracks converted to dorms. Some dreamt horses, soft nickers

and neighs, heavy clops on hardened soil. Others swore they heard

artillery fire, semiautomatic weapons, barked orders. A long-dormant cavalry

paraded, the pomp and circumstance of history, the promise of future glory.

Long ago, families sent their oldest and strongest on ships bound

for new lands, ships guided by star and compass, knowing their children

might go down with the ship, hoping the ship might make land,

that their children might flourish, but knowing they would never hear

of their children again. How terrible, the not knowing, knowing they

must send their young or watch them die from drought, famine, disease.

And now, witness the farm working parents in King City, how they yield

to a child’s entreaties and learn to Skype their youngest daughter

as she finishes a year in Aix en Provence. Witness the young woman

whose high school counselor advised her to become a Marine.

Now a Ph.D., she was told no college would accept her. Witness the young man

whose family worked the broccoli, who hates broccoli to this day, who interned

with law centers and law firms to become a labor rights attorney.

For this and the coming time, we embrace your trust. We will share our passions, share

all we know and learn alongside our students, the research that drives us, the words

that spill onto pages, the books and ideas that lift us, make us soar. May our arms extend

far enough, then farther, flinging students like seed pods, ready to face the fire of challenge,

the learning that comes from failure, the triumphs we share at a distance. This is our vision

and our promise: that we will return the riches of your regions to you.

May our students develop ways of teaching that inspire generations. May they gain

the trust of those claimed by gangs, guide them to safe paths, instill a passion for learning.

May they restore our watershed, that sardine to humpback might flourish in our bay.

May they renew our soil, rich and fertile, untouched by toxic pesticide. May they teach us

to harvest wind and fog, fire and sun, that we may reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

May they engine the growth of clean industries, of new technologies. May they collect

the seeds of forgotten plants, house them and anticipate a forever time of old ways

of being. May the otter and condor, the oak and the pine, miners lettuce

and sticky monkey flower flourish in crisp, clean air. May it be so.

May they never learn violence, may they cause no violence in turn.

May they pursue the call to service, their tenancy for living.

May they come to a time of unselfishness, a time of rising before dawn

to turn on the heat that splinters the night’s cold. May they hear

the voices of children and their children’s children call to each other,

small bird sounds of hot chocolate and a favorite cereal before school.

May they learn small contentments even as they dream their passions.

May these passions guide them through small and large triumphs,

teach them the patience of failure and defeat. May they ride

days of passion and fulfillment that yield knowledge and wisdom.

May they dream at night exquisite steps that encourage discovery.

May they sail currents of learning, winds of adventure,

memories to sustain them for the coming time.

May it be so.

Prof. Diana Garcia, HCOM

15 November 2013

California State University, Monterey Bay

Related

Read President Ochoa's Investiture Speech

See photos from the Investiture Ceremony.