Find Your Role Models: My 2019 Newhouse Convocation Speech

Find Your Role Models: My 2019 Newhouse Convocation Speech

“Where are you from?” A typical question I get around here when people hear or read my name. The answer, obviously, is always the same. “Puerto Rico.” People’s reaction to my answer is usually always the same. “How’s everything back there?” “Is your family okay?” “Were you there when it happened?”

Yes, I was there when it happened. September 20th, 2017 is a date I’ll remember for the rest of my life. But I won’t complain too much. Some of my family and friends spent months without electric power and running water. I was lucky. Others had to bury loved ones, like my neighbor, who had to bury his wife because she was in a treatment that required power connection. I was lucky.

I really struggled before coming to Newhouse. I was doubting myself and wondering if I really wanted to move out and pursue a career in broadcast journalism. Experiencing a category 4 hurricane did not help. Applying to grad school without internet or phone service can be a bit of a challenge and, honestly, I wasn’t sure if I had it in me to enter such a competitive industry. But something good came out of the disaster.

Every day I got to hear, at first, through the radio, and then see the courageous and amazing work that journalists from Puerto Rico did while covering the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. I remember reporters going out into devastated communities late at night and very early in the mornings to try to find out what were the biggest necessities in the island. I remember seeing reporters leave the comfort of their homes, something that might seem simple now but it wasn’t back then, believe me, to tell the story of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The right story, the true story. They made me realize that our work goes way beyond just a couple of minutes on TV. It impacts people. It helps people. It holds accountable those that need to be held accountable. It’s not always easy or glamorous, but it’s worth it.

Fellow graduate students, it’s been an intense year. I think we can all agree on that. I’m sure that, just like myself, there were moments where you would stare at the ceiling and thought: “Why am I doing this?” “Why am I putting myself through this?” “Is this worth it?” When those moments of self-doubt come, I encourage you to find those people who inspire you to do whatever it is you want to do and to do it right. Find the role models that show the world that your work matters. Find those who didn’t follow the most traveled road, but paved their own way to success. Find the people who’ll make you say: “It might not be easy, but it’ll be so worth it.”

I want to leave you with one of my favorite quotes of all time. As we all prepare ourselves to go out into the world and do some amazing things, remember that you are in the driver’s seat, and keep this in mind: “If you get to be the star in your script, why not author one heck of a story?”


Editor’s note:  Each year a master’s student is elected by their peers to give a short speech at the Newhouse Convocation ceremony in May. Fernando was the 2019 elected speaker. Fernando will complete his program in Broadcast and Digital Journalism in August 2019. Other speakers include two graduating seniors and an invited guest speaker, usually a Newhouse alum.

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