Taking the time to learn about life

Cristian Vasquez

With all of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day events programed for this weekend, it is difficult to pick one to attend. I will definitely be at the one being hosted at the Culver City Senior Center. Yet, there is one event that I will regret missing. On Saturday, USC will host Dr. Cornel West as the keynote speaker during their event. For the record I am very excited about Culver City’s celebration and am eager for Saturday to come around. However, I have heard Dr. West speak before and to say that the man’s words were inspirational is an understatement.

Dr. West spoke at the Cal State Dominguez Hills campus and touched on a number of issues: poverty, job development, health in inner city communities and the state of education among other issues. At the core of the man’s message was more than the need for the resources to be made available in order to adequately address all of the issues he mentioned. Dr. West emphasized the need for individuals to work toward achieving better job growth, health care and education in inner cities from within the affected communities.

In a weird way Dr. West’s message reminded me of my dad. Not because my father is a social activists, due to his academic achievements and not even because of the hair similarities (at least when my dad was young). My dad is of humble origins. Due to his poverty he had to quit elementary school and begin working. He migrated to the United States like millions of others have before him and have since. All he’s ever done is manual labor. For a few years he was a welder in Santa Ana before moving to Los Angeles in the early 1980s to work in Downtown L.A.’s produce distribution center. He worked there several years loading and unloading all types of fruits and vegetables, but mostly watermelons.

Eventually my dad would become a construction worker when I was 6 years old and he has been in that field since then. After 27 years of waking up early and working in the sun all day, my dad keeps going. When he would drag me along to work, as I sat there with what must have been an angry or at least uncomfortable look on my face, dad would remind me that he wasn’t rich. “When I die I won’t leave you anything. I can only pass down a good work ethic.”

Well, his words were in Spanish but they meant the same thing. So as I listened to Dr. West echo similar sentiments that evening at Cal State Dominguez Hills, I was reminded of my dad. This Saturday I will have fun and enjoy the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day event being hosted at the city’s senior center but to everyone who makes the trip to USC, pay close attention. Dr. West has some great knowledge to share.