Rommel Rico, Class of 2011

Ladies and gentlemen, I am honored to be here today standing in front of you. I feel truly touched to be the object of your blind faith. Thank you for trusting in me and allowing me to achieve my dreams.

I am in my last two weeks here at USD and I must say I have not only learned a lot, but I have also grown considerably as a person. I am a Computer Science major, and I find it a little bit funny how my class sizes mirror what it was for me growing up. Just like my Software Engineering class is only four students, many of my high school classes were small. Many people find it shocking when I tell them that my high school graduating class was less than 20 students. I still remember all of them by name and I do not need to tell you about the importance of community and friendship.

I would like to dedicate the rest of this speech to the memory of my father, Efren Rico, who died suddenly in an airplane accident last year at the age of 50. My father was a very experienced pilot with close to seven thousand flying hours. But life does not care about experience or money or connections. Life comes and goes in a flash.

I would like to share with you a lesson that my father once told me. You see, when you are flying a plane and you want to get from point A to point B, you cannot just continue on a straight line. If you try to do that, gravity will start to pull the plane down and you will end up short of where you wanted to go. So if you really want to get to point B, you have to point your plane up and beyond your desired destination. If you head for point B directly, you do not reach your target. This also holds true for students. If you take us for what we are, you make us worse or indifferent. But if you overestimate us and put us on a pedestal, then you are preparing us for our true potential. By believing in us, you are promoting us to what we really can be. Your donations are allowing us to continue flying.

I would like to remind everyone to dream high. It is important to not only follow your dreams, but to set the bar as high as possible. Only then will you truly know what you are capable of doing. My father started as a janitor in an airport and he decided that he was going to dream high and be a pilot, and earn thousands of dollars to put me through college. He never got to reach all of his goals, but you see, it doesn’t matter. We all have to die sometime. It is true for every human being on this planet. In my father’s case, because he aimed high, he not only reached his true potential, but he also allowed me to do the same. You are doing the same thing here. By believing in us students, you are lifting us to greater heights and preparing us for the world better than any textbook can ever achieve of doing.

So thank you, again, for believing in me. Thank you for being the spark that I needed when I was feeling most vulnerable. Thank you for allowing me to be an inspiration to my brother, my sister, and my entire family. Thank you so much for everything.