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Congressman Honda Encourages EVC Students to Value their Unique Experiences
When Mike Honda was just one credit shy of graduating from San Jose State University, he joined the Peace Corps, and it changed his life. Addressing an overflow assembly of Evergreen Valley College students and faculty last Wednesday, April 11, Congressman Honda shared stories of life in a Japanese internment camp, his inconsistent academic record, and his struggles with self-esteem before finding direction and learning to value his diverse experiences.
Speaking at the President’s Speaker Series on the Evergreen campus, Honda revealed how he became fluent in Spanish while serving with the Peace Corps in El Salvador and how this skill allowed him access and opportunity to contribute in ways he had never imagined.
Honda asked how many in the audience spoke another language, and half the hands went up. “That’s what this country is about…My father used to say Cada cabeza es un mundo, which means ‘every mind is their world,’” Honda said, underlining the notion that the more someone can communicate in another language, the more they can experience that world. He urged Evergreen Valley College students to nurture and learn their culture’s languages, saying that they would be able to use that skill to engage more people. “You are the expert of your own experience,” Honda told the crowd.
He went on to encourage students to contribute to politics, as he had. “Government can make mistakes depending on its political leadership, and it’s up to us to right its wrongs,” Honda said. As an example, he described his 10-year struggle to pass bill HR442, a formal apology by the US Government to all citizens who were interned and/or extradited during World War II, including Japanese-Americans, German-Americans and Italian-Americans.
Acknowledging two previous lecturers in the college’s President Speaker Series, Luis Valdez and Tommy Smith, Honda explained how they also had helped right wrongs. Valdez’s fervent belief in social justice led him to lobby for farm workers while Smith protested inequities within the United States while at the US Olympics despite public outcry.
Looking around the auditorium, Honda said, “There’s room and time for people like yourselves to right the wrongs, too.”
One way that young people can get have a voice in their government, Honda suggested, is to educate themselves well. He urged, “Life and education is continuous. Finish college and continue learning throughout your life.” He said that while school doesn’t guarantee jobs or success, it does guarantee choices—more choices than Honda or his parents or the parents of many of the students present probably had.
Asked whether he would consider a gubernatorial bid, Honda smiled and said, “I’ve got more days behind me than ahead of me. I’ve gotta prepare the way for you.” Despite blemishes, Honda believes the U.S. is still the best country to live in, and young people should keep working to make it better. “With oversight and refocusing of resources, we can move our country in a positive direction.”
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ABOUT Evergreen Valley College
With student learning as its primary focus, Evergreen Valley College’s mission is to empower students to expand their human potential and to succeed in a global, multicultural society. The College, which sits on a picturesque 175-acre site in the eastern foothills of San Jose, provides access to comprehensive and flexible post-secondary education to prepare students of all ages and backgrounds for balanced and productive lives and to improve the workforce and quality of life in our community.