Woodville celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. day Monday with the annual parade and program in Kirby Gym. Sergio Ramos, a long time Woodville educator, addressed the crowd, talking about equality and his own experience as a Naturalized Citizen of the United States. The text of his speech is reproduced below.
A Tribute To All People On This Martin Luther King Day
by Sergio Ramos
Let me begin my remarks today by thanking for inviting me to be part of this celebration of interracial and intercultural cooperation and sharing, Ms. Mayme Brown. Ms. Mayme Brown is a great woman of vision who has contributed so much and given of herself to our schools, churches and community through all her activities in Woodville and Tyler County.
She has asked several of us to share with you today the contributions that each person's National background represented on this panel have contributed to our local community, and so, we give tribute to all people and races gather here today.
On this day, we celebrate the life and legacy of a man who brought hope and healing through his teachings of peace and non-violence, of courage and compassion. As I reflect on my own personal life and how I came to Woodville, Texas, I remember Dr. King's words as he said "the ultimate measure of a man is not seen in times of comfort but,in times of challenge and controversy."
I've been involved in Education all my life. I started my teaching career in 1966 as a young Graduate
Assistant working on my Master's Degree at Stephen F. Austin State College (now a University).
Then, in August of 1967, I had the privilege and honor of being given a teaching contract by Mr. B.H. McGuire. This was right before we had "forced integration"and...my days of challenge and controversy began. I remember when I got to Woodville we had two schools, Kirby H.S. (the white school) and Scott H.S. (the black school). As a young professional teacher, I must tell you, I felt some discomfort because I was lonely (not alone), I could feel the "challenge and controversy" in our community.
I had my first African American students back then...Our Superintendent and School Board actually made fairly easy for our two schools to integrate and merge into one school...right here in Woodville,Texas we got along fine. When the 2 schools finally merged into one...the name of the school was changed and became Woodville High School. I remember we had the best of the best in our integrated faculty and student body. I have so many fond memories and I could talk for hours about those early days (but, I have only 10 minutes!).
I came from Mexico...went to college in Marshall and Nacogdoches,Texas. I came with a student visa and a passport...So when I started teaching here in Woodville, I was not a "citizen of the U.S." I had all the pre-requisites: passport, visa, work permit, etc. These things gave me the opportunity to work, to continue my studies, to worship and to contribute in every community activity...but, I could not "vote". So in April 30,1970 I fulfilled my dream of becoming a "Naturalized Citizen of the United States of America". I have voted in every election since then, local, state and federal. It is an awesome privilege and responsibility.
I became a citizen of the U.S.A. right before Congress authorized President Lyndon Johnson in 1968 to proclaim the National Hispanic Week. Then, 20 years later, in 1988, this week was extended to a whole month. September in now,the National Hispanic Month.
Many Americans believe that Hispanics have made a contribution to the U.S. only in recent years...especially with so much emphasis on illegal immigration. However, Hispanic settlers have greatly influenced our U.S. culture and history since the beginning of the U.S.A. for years.
The term "Hispanic" does not refer to a nationality or country, but rather it combines many ethnic roots. More than 400 years ago, millions of people have come to the U.S. from the Caribbean regions, Central and South America, Cuba,the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Spain. The cultural heritage of Hispanic bloodlines include Aztecs, Spaniards, Mexicans and many more than 20 nations.
Cesar Chavez, a great Mexican-American activist in Migrant Education and Migrant work said, and I quote: "We need to help students and parents cherish the ethnic and cultural diversity that nourishes and strengthens this community—and this nation." This has been a dream of mine...and I agree with Cesar Chavez as well as what I said before about Dr. Martin Luther King.
Let me finish my remarks by restating the date of my U.S. Citizenship: April 30, 1970. On that day I took the Oath of Allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America. This great step in my life brought many rights and privileges, but along with these rights came many responsibilities and duties. One of these duties is to protect, defend and respect the flag of the United States. The initials of the United States are U.S. - that spells "US". One of the great opportunities in our lives is that we can stand for what we believe in. We can stand for our homes, our families, our school, our churches, our God, and for our ideals, and for everything we believe in. We can stand for AMERICA and human freedom.
Now, I encourage and challenge you to be proud, to defend, to protect and to respect our flag.