Updated September 14, 2018 at 12:57 p.m.
Four-time Emmy Award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa, BC ’84, urged students to embrace their power as leaders in a world of crisis in her speech at Barnard’s 2018 Convocation.
Hinojosa is one of the most prominent Latina journalists in the United States. She is the founder and president of the Harlem-based nonprofit production company Futuro Media Group, which produces her radio show Latino USA.
While many speakers at past Convocations have touched on current events happening outside of Barnard’s gates, none spoke as bluntly as Hinojosa.
“If anyone had told me about 40 years ago that our country today would have babies in cages, that people asking for asylum would be held in ‘refrigerators,’ that people with green cards, what I had when I was a student, would be held in detention centers, or that people would be stripped of their citizenship,” Hinojosa said, “I would have said no way.”
She urged students to not get caught up in feeling overwhelmed by such atrocities and instead to acknowledge and understand their privilege as Barnard students and leaders.
“My trajectory has led me to understand now that of course I have power, of course I’m a leader. You are already leaders,” Hinojosa said. “We have privilege. I need you to not feel overwhelmed, but rather when you are feeling weakness, focus on gratitude, focus on feeling lucky. If you are in this place where you have this gratitude, that will lead you to understand privilege and responsibility.”
Hinojosa also touched on the power that Latina women hold in this country, and how these women often strike fear in the hearts of those in positions of authority.
“It is weird for me to think that I represent something that you’re afraid of,” Hinojosa said about Trump, without stating his name. “I am the five things: Mexican, an immigrant, a journalist, a woman, and flat-chested.”
Barnard President Sian Beilock focused on encouraging students to take advantage of all the opportunities Barnard offers them to become better communicators. She put special emphasis on Barnard’s Writing and Speaking Fellows programs and the positive experiences students have had with them. (Barnard’s Student Government Association’s spring 2018 Desserts After Dark survey found, that while only 27 percent of respondents had never met with a writing fellow, 65 percent of respondents had never met with a speaking fellow.)
“The only non-negotiable is that you engage,” Beilock said. “No one is born writer or speaker and everyone has the potential to improve.”
In her first address as chair of the Board of Trustees, Cheryl Glicker Milstein, BC ’82, encouraged students to take advantage of the diversity of people, interests, and activities on campus, which she explained as being much more varied than they were in her time.
“You have an unparalleled opportunity to make friends with people from different backgrounds, states, and life experiences, with different stories to share,” Milstein said. “Broaden your horizons. Now that it is tough to find role models in adults in high places, look to each other as peer role models and leaders.”