Los Angeles Latino Chamber of Commerce

July 29, 2016

President Janet Napolitano gave the keynote address at the Distinguished Speakers Series at the Los Angeles Latino Chamber of Commerce on July 29, 2016. Here are her remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning, everyone! And thank you, Claudia, for that warm welcome. I would like to thank the Los Angeles Latino Chamber of Commerce for inviting me to speak here today, and I want to recognize Bank of America for sponsoring this Distinguished Speakers Series.
It’s fitting that we meet this morning at the City Club Los Angeles.
When the Club first opened its doors, the L.A. Times described it as “a little United Nations among private clubs.” At the time, the Club’s leaders sought to promote what they saw as “the new leadership of downtown.” To them, that meant both men and women, and people of all races, ethnicities, and nationalities.
Recently, however, a different spirit has animated the airwaves. Persistent talk of building walls—literally and figuratively—has at times dominated the daily news cycles.
And so I find that institutions like the City Club stand as enduring reminders of a deeper, stronger tradition in our country: the tradition of opening doors to all, rather than the false and poisonous promise of building walls.
It is that stronger, enduring tradition I want to address with you today.
The tradition of opening doors to all members of our society.
The tradition of welcoming all members of our society through those doors—including them, supporting them, nurturing them.
The tradition of creating and expanding opportunity for everyone.
The members of the Los Angeles Latino Chamber of Commerce are well-versed in these traditions.
You are part of a larger effort to organize and unify Latino business-owners.
You drive economic development among the Latino business community in the Los Angeles area.
And you help foster the full participation of Latinos in both the local and the global economy.
Put simply, you undertake the hard work of creating and expanding opportunity for your fellow members, and for the communities in which they live and work.
My day job holds a similar purpose. You see, the University of California is also in the opportunity business. Our University is primarily focused on two major variables in what I like to call the opportunity equation.
The first variable is the creation of opportunity for young Californians. At the University, we strive to ensure that all qualified students in this state can access a high-quality UC education and that they receive the financial aid and the academic support they need to be successful, to graduate on time, and to enter the workforce.
The second variable of the equation is generating opportunity for the community of California. And our state-wide community, of course, includes the business community. UC translates research into new companies and exciting inventions. We create jobs in the local economies in which the University operates. We work closely with California businesses to keep UC campuses, our medical centers, and other parts of the University running smoothly.
The opportunities created by the Latino Chamber of Commerce, and the opportunities created by the University of California, do not exist on parallel tracks. We share the same state. The opportunities we generate overlap one another, complement one another and strengthen one another.
Consider, for example, that until 1848, California was still part of Mexico. What became the City of Los Angeles was founded in 1781, and the treaty that established Mexico’s independence from Spain was signed in 1821.
Given this history, no one should be surprised that today, our state is home to more than 15 million Latinos. The California Department of Finance projects that by the year 2020, more than 40 percent of the state’s population will identify as Latino.
In concert with this demographic shift is the growing number of Latinos who are pursuing higher education. Many of them are applying to, getting into, and graduating from the University of California.
Latino freshman applications to UC have increased by 200 percent, and freshman enrollees have more than doubled, in the past 10 years.
In that same time period, community college transfer applications by Latinos to UC have almost doubled, and enrollees have increased by 60 percent.
Overall, undergraduate Latino enrollment at the University of California has doubled over the last decade. Latinos now comprise 22 percent of UC’s undergraduate population, and—significantly—almost three-quarters of them are the first in their families to attend college. And, this year, the share of admitted California freshmen from Latino families rose to 32 percent, and the percentage of Latino students transferring from community colleges increased to nearly 27 percent.
We still have much work to do to improve these numbers even more. We at UC continue to focus on expanding opportunities for Latino students.
But the progress these numbers showcase is a point of pride for me as President, and for the University as a whole. They are the reason that four UC campuses—Merced, Riverside, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz—have been designated as Hispanic-Serving Institutions, with more than 25 percent of their undergraduates identifying as Latino. UC Santa Barbara is the only Hispanic-Serving Institution that is also a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, the 62 leading research universities in the United States and Canada. And two other UC campuses—Davis and Irvine—are on track to become Hispanic Serving Institutions in the near future.
Nor is this a new trend. For generations, the University of California has served as a springboard for some of our state’s most promising students, many of them Latinos. Some have gone on to pursue impressive careers, while others are just setting out on their professional paths.
A newly admitted UC student is Paola Gonzalez. She will attend UCLA this fall. She recently graduated from Manual Arts Senior High School, right here in Los Angeles—a school I had the privilege of visiting earlier this year. Paola completed eight of the nine Advanced Placement courses offered at Manual Arts. She graduated with a 4.0 GPA, and was a member of her school’s Robotics Team, College Ambassadors program, and the Academic Decathlon.
And then there are students like Lucydalila Cedillo.
Lucydalila grew up not far from here, in a Los Angeles housing project. She attended Verdugo Hills High School, and she graduated as the school’s valedictorian.
Lucydalila grew up in a home without books. She didn’t know anyone who had gone to college. In fact, her parents—who immigrated from Mexico—were not able to continue their own schooling past the seventh grade.
Despite all this, Lucydalila’s father—who worked as a mechanic and a musician—instilled a sense of ambition and confidence in his daughter. He urged her to learn as much as she could while she had the opportunity. He told Lucydalila that her education was something that no one could ever take away from her.
Lucydalila finished high school and ultimately earned a spot at UC Davis. A few weeks ago, she not only graduated with her bachelor’s degree in animal science—she did so with a 4.0 GPA, after earning an A-plus in twenty-six courses. At her commencement ceremony, the campus awarded Lucydalila the University Medal and recognized her as UC Davis’s top graduating senior of the year. This fall, she’s headed to Harvard University to begin a doctoral program in genetics. One day, she hopes to pursue a career as a professor. I’d love to have her back on our faculty.
Earlier this summer, Yuriana Aguilar earned her doctoral degree from UC Merced’s Quantitative and Systems Biology program. Her story is truly inspiring. She is the first undocumented student to earn a Ph.D. at UC Merced. She won’t be the last.
When Yuriana began her undergraduate studies at UC Merced in 2007, she was not eligible for state or federal financial aid, or loans. The federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program—which we created at the Department of Homeland Security when I was Secretary—and the California Dream Act were not implemented until she had graduated with a bachelor’s degree. Until that happened, private scholarships and work she found at flea markets, together with a supportive family, helped her fill the financial gap. Once DACA was in effect, Yuriana was able to begin a work-study program.
Yuriana rightly credits her parents for pushing her to succeed at all levels of her schooling. A supportive environment at UC Merced also contributed to her success. And she made the most of that support from her family and the campus. Her research has focused on the human heart—specifically sudden cardiac death, the leading cause of natural deaths in this country. The Dean of UC Merced’s School of Natural Sciences called her work stunning. Dean Juan Meza said, “The potential benefit of her research to cardiac care is enormous.”
Lucydalila and Yuriana are but two stars in the constellation that makes up the University’s bright student body. And that student population is just one constellation in the vast UC universe that encompasses every resident of this state. Altogether, the University’s campuses, medical centers, national laboratories, and statewide Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources create opportunities that extend to the far reaches of the community of California.
UC, for example, is the state’s third largest employer.
Many of California’s leading industries emerged from UC research, including biotechnology, computing, semiconductors, telecommunications, and agriculture.
In Los Angeles County, the University’s impact is particularly striking. More than 1 in 10 UC startups operate here. The University’s payroll to LA County residents amounts to 3 billion dollars. And almost 1 in 4 UC employees live in this area.
These numbers tell a compelling story about UC’s contributions to the state and its residents.
Still, I believe we at UC can do even more. Just as we work tirelessly to expand opportunity for young Californians, and to ensure that our student population reflects the diversity of California, so, too, are we focused on expanding opportunity for small and diverse businesses that wish to work with the University and become part of our economic success story.
Here in Southern California, the UCLA campus is already building and strengthening ties to small and diverse businesses.
Take, for example, Gorilla Marketing.
If you have ever purchased a T-shirt, a pen, or a coffee mug with the UCLA logo on it, there’s a chance that swag came from Gorilla Marketing. The promotional items company was founded in 1979 by Chris Arranaga, a UCLA alumnus twice over who launched his business from his dorm room.
(Hey, if it fits in a dorm room, it must be a small business.)
Today, Gorilla Marketing is based in Riverside and employs 25 people. The company conducts about 1.7 million dollars in annual business with UCLA across more than 100 departments, and also works with UC San Diego.
CSI Fullmer is another example.
This is an office furniture dealership based in Pasadena. The company is owned by Bill Baquet, who served in the U.S. Navy, and it has been designated by the federal government as a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business. CSI Fullmer operates throughout Southern California and employs 15 people. Last year, the company conducted more than 350,000 dollars in business with UCLA, and has conducted more than 80,000 dollars in business with the campus so far this year.
These are wonderful examples of the kind of mutually-beneficial business relationships the University can forge when we focus more intently on working with small and diverse businesses. And while California’s Proposition 209 limits aspects of UC’s student outreach and admissions, and some of its business practices, we remain deeply committed to providing an opportunity for all members of the community of California.
That’s why I am excited to announce here today that the University of California is establishing a formal, system-wide program to support small and diverse businesses across the state. This is the first endeavor of its kind at the University.
The goal of this program is to share best practices from each UC location and from external partners, better focus our resources, and provide increased accountability. The centerpiece of this effort will be a new UC advisory council comprised of leaders of small and diverse businesses in California.
Gil Vasquez, Chairman of the Los Angeles Latino Chamber of Commerce, has graciously accepted our invitation to become a charter member of this advisory council. And Bill Cooper, the University’s chief procurement officer, is here today, along with Stephanie Lopez, who will lead the small and diverse business program. Bill and Stephanie, could you please stand up for a moment? Please feel free to talk with Bill or Stephanie after this program.
At UC, generating opportunities for young Californians means enhancing and expanding access to high quality higher education. It means providing strong financial aid and robust academic support. It means instilling the skills and the know-how students need to navigate whatever challenges lie ahead.
At the same time, the University fosters opportunities for all members of the community of California. That means creating an environment that yields innovative research solutions and groundbreaking inventions for the benefit of the public. It means supporting the creation of new companies and more jobs. And it means affirming a strong commitment to engaging with small and diverse businesses.
These are the essential variables that make up the opportunity equation at the University of California. And ultimately, the solution to this equation is an opportunity for all of us.
Thank you. And in the words of the University of California motto—“Fiat Lux,” which is Latin for “Let There Be Light!” Or, in Spanish, “Que Haya Luz!”