Text of Speech by Dr. Robert Cargill to Madera South High School Graduating Class of 2015

MADERA SOUTH HIGH SCHOOL STALLIONS
COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS – JUNE 4, 2015
DR. ROBERT R. CARGILL, UNIVERSITY OF IOWA

Good evening.

I want to thank Mr. Lile for the invitation to speak to you this evening.

It is indeed good to be home. And I know that I’m home because my name is Robert, and yet ever since I’ve been back in Madera, everyone keeps calling me “Bobby”. On TV, I’m Robert. When I write books, I’m Robert. In the classroom, I’m Dr. Cargill. But in Madera, I’m Bobby. And it makes me smile, because it’s good to be home.

And please allow me to be among the first to congratulate the 2015 graduating class of Madera South High School, the best high school in Madera.

Now, Mr. Lile has informed me that you are not permitted to use your cellphones to text or take pictures during the ceremony. But, since no such rule was given to me, I’d like to take and text some pictures for you. What do you say we take one cool-looking graduation photo?

I’ll post this picture on my Twitter, which is @XKV8R, that’s X-K-V-8-R, later this evening, and you can re-tweet or save it from there. Got it?

OK, now remember, this picture is going to live forever, so don’t do anything that some prospective employer is going to question, OK?

OK, here we go. 1, 2, 3. #MaderaSouth2015

Dr. Robert Cargill snaps photos of the 2015 graduating class of Madera South High School. PHOTO BY JACK PORTER/BIG VALLEY NEWS (More: http://www.bigvalleynews.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7367) Dr. Robert Cargill snaps photos of the 2015 graduating class of Madera South High School. PHOTO BY JACK PORTER/BIG VALLEY NEWS (More: http://www.bigvalleynews.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7367)

Tonight is a special night—a night for celebration. I even wore my favorite blue dress.

You’ve worked hard for many years, and you’ve earned this diploma, and so tonight we celebrate and honor your achievement.

Now, it is at this point in a graduation speech where the speaker traditionally bestows upon you pieces of advice that are supposed to make your lives a bit more successful. But I’m not going to tell you to “be all that you can be”, or “reach for the stars”, or to “think outside the box”, or to “wear sunscreen”, because you’ve heard all this before.

What I will tell you is what I’ve learned as a fellow Maderan, who has been “out there”.

I’ve learned that you should be nice to older people, especially your grandparents, and not just because they put money in your birthday cards.

Be generous with both your time and money.

Be on time. Showing up is half the battle, and showing up on time is another third.

And be nice. Be kind. I’ve traveled all over the world, and you simply cannot realize how much being generous, being kind, and being on time pays off in life.

And I’ve also learned that you should never, ever forget where you came from.

Never forget Madera!

Listen to me. I was exactly like you 24 years ago. I grew up in Madera, and like most other people I knew, all I wanted to do was get out of Madera. And not just to Fresno. I mean I wanted way out.

But I have learned that this feeling is not unique to Madera. It is the same feeling that every 17- and 18-year old feels in every city, in every state in the country, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York—everywhere!

You’re young, you’re full of hope and potential, and you’re ready to launch out from here and see the world. And that’s good. But never confuse a sense of adventure with a rejection of your hometown.

This place is a special place. And before too long, you will find yourself wanting to return to your home, to your family, to your friends, and to DiCicco’s.

Even those of you who swore that you would never come back to Madera will do exactly that, and this is a good thing!

You will use the education and experiences you gained working and traveling elsewhere, and will return to make this city—the City of Madera—a better place.

Because this city was made what it is today by those who have given their lives to make Madera a better place.

Take, for instance, your principal, Mr. Lile. Now, I went to high school with Mr. Lile, and, let me dispel a rumor you might have heard: back then, he had great hair!

And Mr. Lile and I graduated and went on to see the world. But here’s how much Mr. Lile loves this city: after giving his time and energy learning and practicing the craft of education as far away as Honduras and Dubai, he then returned to Madera to give his time and energy and life to serving you, and to serving the City of Madera, to make this place a little better than it was when he was a kid.

And this has been my experience with so many Maderans who contributed to my growth and education. This is what Bill and Pat Schawrtz did for me, and my first baseball coach, Ken Turner, and my Jefferson Junior High teachers Gary Espenship and Jeannie Lakeman all did for me. And when I was younger, it’s what my John Adams Elementary School teachers, Connie Barsotti and Jan Duke, did for me. I remember them both fondly and I miss them both very much.

And wherever I go, whether I’m writing a book, or appearing on the History Channel, or doing archaeology in Israel, or lecturing at the University of Iowa, it is all a result of the education that was begun here, and of the values that were instilled in me here, in Madera.

Like you, I am a Maderan. This is my hometown. I grew up in a house at 2305 Howard Road, across from Lions Town & Country Park. I played football on this field. I played baseball on that field, Mel Parker Field.

And I’m telling you all this for this reason: I am 42 years old, and I haven’t achieved anything that you can’t also achieve.

I am simply you, 24 years from now.

I’m that Madera kid who played little league on Field One for the Lions, who got Big Gulps at the 7-Eleven on Howard, before it was a Starbucks, who went to the Madera Fair, who got sugar cookies at Perlongo’s Bakery, and who had birthday parties at Madera Valley Bowl in Parkwood.

My great-grandparents and my grandfather, Ray Cargill, who served in the United States Army Air Corps during World War 2, are all buried at Jay Chapel. And both my parents, Len Cargill, and Sharon Costáles, spent their careers contributing to making Madera a better place.

I have been fortunate to experience tremendous successes, and to meet fascinating people, and I have experienced tremendous failures in life. And it was my Madera family and my Madera values that helped me through it all!

I, too, am a Maderan.

And if I can do it—a kid who grew up just down the street—then you too can have successes in your jobs, in your businesses, in athletics, and in your relationships.

So ask yourself: what will you be? What will you become?

Because being from Madera is an asset, not a liability.

Like many of you, I too was intimidated by other kids who were from big cities, who graduated from much bigger, and many times, private high schools. I went to public schools, Fresno City College, Fresno State, and UCLA. And many of the people I was competing with for admissions into colleges and graduate schools, for scholarships, and later for jobs were from wealthy families, who attended private prep schools, and then went to Harvard and Yale and Princeton and Dartmouth. And like you, I know that it’s an uphill climb competing against people who have had many advantages in life.

But let me tell you what I’ve found. I found that when I was applying for admission into a program, or for a job, the interviewing committee notices that some people are advantaged over others. And they can see when someone has had the best of everything, while others have had to work their tails off every day to overcome the fact that their families weren’t wealthy, or they weren’t from big cities. They recognize that you had to work hard. They recognize that you may have experienced the death of a parent at a young age, or have disabilities, or served your country in the military, or had to raise kids.

And they not only recognize it, but they soon realize that it is often the candidates from the small towns, the blue-collar kids, who have already proved that they can work hard and have what it takes to succeed in college, in jobs, and in life, who are often the better candidates.

You must continue to work hard. I’m a tenure track professor at a Big Ten research university, The University of Iowa, and I regularly admit that I’m not the smartest person at the university. I’m not even the smartest person in my department. But I make absolutely sure that no one will ever, ever outwork me.

Now, I’m also not going to say, “You can be anything you want to be,” because to be honest, it’s not true. Some of you cannot and will not be certain things, just like I cannot, and will not ever dunk a basketball.

But while you can’t “be anything you want to be”, you can be many things that you might think are out of your reach right now. Just because you didn’t do well in math doesn’t mean that you won’t get the hang of it two years from now, and become an engineer. Just because you didn’t have a lot of friends in high school doesn’t mean that you won’t have many, good, real friends in college. Just because you didn’t go on a lot of dates in high school doesn’t mean you won’t find a wonderful partner and live a happy life. And just because you use a wheelchair to get around doesn’t mean you can’t be voted Prom King! Where is Lucio Garcia anyway?

So while you can’t do anything, you should still dream big, set lofty, but attainable, incremental goals, and continue to prepare yourself for success.

Because you live in a magic time in history, and in a place where many, many things are possible. And what you can’t see at this moment is that a series of events is about to unfold in each of your lives, and a number of opportunities are about to present themselves to you. And while you have no way of knowing what they will be, or when they will occur, what you can do is put yourselves in the best possible position to be ready for when those opportunities arise.

You have already taken the first step; you have completed the necessary requirements to graduate from Madera South High School, and if I might add, the best high school in Madera!

But graduation from Madera South is not the end of your journey as a Stallion, it is just the beginning, because like me, you will take what you have learned here in Madera, along with the friends and relationships you have made, and you will work even harder to make your goals a reality, beginning today.

Well…maybe tomorrow, because tonight—tonight, we celebrate!

So be proud that you grew up in Madera. And be proud that you are a graduate of Madera South High School. Never forget the work you had to do to make it this far, and use this taste of success you experience tonight as incentive and motivation for your next great adventure.

Congratulations to all of you!

Have fun and be safe tonight!

Done and Done: Supreme Court invalidates DOMA, Effectively Ends Prop 8 in CA

Equality Smiley

Sometimes they get one right! And on this occasion, it’s a Double Rainbow all the way! ;-)

http://nbcpolitics.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/26/19151971-supreme-court-strikes-down-defense-of-marriage-act-paves-way-for-gay-marriage-to-resume-in-california?lite

http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/26/politics/scotus-same-sex-main/index.html?hpt=hp_t1

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/06/26/195857796/supreme-court-strikes-down-defense-of-marriage-act

And the decision clears the way for the resumption of same-sex marriage in California.

This debate is certainly not over, but at least now people can enjoy the same marriage rights while we’re having the debate.

And I’ll certainly continue the discussion with those who have concerns about the religious arguments pertaining to same-sex marriage and what the Bible ACTUALLY SAYS about marriage.

Until then, I remain on record for Marriage Equality!

So for now, let us celebrate the fact that our nation has crept a little bit closer to equality.

And unfortunately, let the fear mongering, hatred, and bigotry from fundies in the name of Jesus begin!

And let us begin with Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, who sounded more pissed than professional in his dissent. Seriously, I expect that kind of rhetoric from the Glenn Becks and Bryan Fischers of the world, but not from an Associate Justice toward a colleague.

Then again,

video from the 1-11-11 coptic prayer vigil in westwood village, ca

I have uploaded a short video from last night’s Coptic candlelight prayer vigil in Westwood Village, CA (corner of Wilshire and Veteran) near UCLA on Jan. 11, 2011. The vigil was to commemorate those Coptic Christians slain at a New Year’s Eve mass in Alexandria, Egypt.

Read the report on the terrorist suicide bombing here.

You should also read about the wonderful expression of solidarity and social justice exhibited by the Egyptian Muslim community, who gave themselves as human shields so that their Coptic Christian brothers and sisters could worship in peace.

It is essential that we promote expressions of support for all those who are victims of religious oppression, regardless of faith tradition. Likewise, it is imperative that we promote nonviolent expressions of resistance to all forms of religious and intellectual intolerance.

california online impersonation law goes into effect jan 1, 2011

California FlagA new California state law, SB 1411, goes into effect today, which makes it a misdemeanor to maliciously impersonate someone via a social media outlet or through e-mails. The bill is in response to a rise cybercrime that uses online anonymity on blogs, email, and other social networking sites to harm, intimidate, threaten, and defraud others, not unlike the seemingly never-ending saga of Dr. Golb and the Dead Sea Scrolls that played out in New York last year.

Here‘s the bill’s history. It is one of the few California bills to pass both the assembly and senate unanimously. Precedence is being set, and the laws are finally catching up with the crime and the criminals.

discovering new ‘life’ as we know it

It’s coming. In fact, it may already be here.

NASA has announced that it has discovered a new form of ‘life’. This is based upon NASA-funded research in Mono Lake, CA which has discovered that a microbe, GFAJ-1, can live on toxic chemicals, without one of the elements previously thought to be essential to all life. Ed Weiler, NASA’s associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, declared:

“The definition of life has just expanded…As we pursue our efforts to seek signs of life in the solar system, we have to think more broadly, more diversely and consider life as we do not know it.”

Science previously concluded that all forms of life required six essential elements: carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, sulfur. GFAJ-1 substitutes the otherwise toxic arsenic for phosphorus, redefining what we previously understood to be the necessary context for ‘life’ on Earth. Because arsenic has been shown to be a successful substitute for phosphorus in the organism’s DNA, the formula  understood to be needed for life on other planets also changes. This means that in theory, sulfur no longer needs to be present on other planets in order to sustain life, which greatly increases the number of candidates for life-bearing environments in space.

Now, before you wet your pants, stop thinking about flying saucers and Erich von Däniken, and start thinking about the chemical components and environment needed for simple, microbial life. NASA researchers didn’t find intelligent life at the bottom of Mono Lake, they found and engineered microbes. It’s not intelligent life, but life nonetheless. This means that potential microbial life and ultimately intelligent life may also be discovered on planets that we previously dismissed as candidates for life.

Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.

So, no, this discovery does not prove E.T. and it does not confirm what these nutjobs have been saying. It just means that a similar combination of elements needed for life on this planet may also be present elsewhere.

In fact, I seem to remember a guy on a show called Ancient Aliens refuting the nonsense that aliens gave us advanced weaponry, but adding in passing this prescient oracle (see the 5:38 mark):

“I think there is life – simple life, bacterial life, microbial life – on other planets. I think we’re going to find that. And who knows, maybe one day, we’ll find some other planet that is capable of sustaining life, that has evolved people over a long period of time that are also looking up at the stars wondering, “Is there anybody else out there? Are we the only ones?” – Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.

california bill would crack down on e-impersonators

Online Impersonation

Battling impostors: SB-1411 is designed to punish those who use fake identities online. Credit: Christopher T. Fong and Russell Yip / The Chronicle

An article in SF Gate (San Francisco Chronicle online) by Alejandro Martinez-Cabrera highlights California State Bill 1411 (SB-1411). If passed, the bill:

would make it unlawful to knowingly and without consent credibly impersonate another person through or on an Internet Web site or by other electronic means with the intent to harm, intimidate, threaten or defraud another person.

Current law addressing false impersonation is outdated and was not drafted with the technologies of the 21st century in mind.  SB 1411 brings us up to date by making these forms of cyber impersonation a punishable offense.

State Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) introduced a bill in June that would make it a misdemeanor to maliciously impersonate someone. SF Gate has previously reported on the bill here.

If Simitian’s bill passes, online impersonations with the purpose “of harming, intimidating, threatening or defrauding” would be punishable with a maximum fine of $1,000 and one year in jail.

The article states:

Malicious online impersonation has often been brushed away as the complaints from overly sensitive people who can’t stand parody or criticism, but a range of recent incidents have really stressed the question of where to draw the line.

Recent incidents? I might know of one.

The bill unanimously passed both the California Assembly and Senate, and now awaits Governor Schwarzenegger’s signature.

I strongly urge the governor to sign the bill. As a victim of this kind of crime, I cannot underscore how important this kind of legislation is. The first amendment was designed to protect differences of opinion, dissenting views, and to promote new ideas, not as a shield to protect criminal impersonators, forgers, and identity thieves hiding behind electronic forms of anonymity in an effort to dodge accountability and civil remedies while they perpetrate well-orchestrated, premeditated campaigns of harassment, defamation, and libel against their victims.

The law is coming.

The Day After: Thoughts on the Response to the Overturn of Prop 8

It has begun. The response from those who supported California Proposition 8 is underway now that:

U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker said Proposition 8, passed by voters in November 2008, violated the federal constitutional rights of gays and lesbians to marry the partners of their choice.

What I find fascinating is how similar the comments being made by all of the various talking heads are to one another. They don’t mention that Prop 8 barely passed with 52.2% of the vote, which was down from the 61.4% that the very same measure (Prop 22) passed with only 8 years earlier, they speak about how “over seven million voters voted for the measure.” They don’t speak about how certain groups regularly seek to bypass around our elected representatives (as we are, in fact, a democratically elected representative democracy), and use direct ballot initiatives to place what are now, in fact, unconstitutional measures on California ballots. Rather, we hear speak of how “activist judges” “disregarded the will of the people,” “set aside a democratic vote,” and “legislated from the bench,” as if the popular views of a voting public always produce fair and equitable laws. (Seriously, ask yourself: were the issue of slavery or the equal rights of African-Americans placed on the ballot in a southern state in 1860 – or 1960 for that matter – would the voting public abolished slavery? The fact that a war was fought to, among other things, defend the practice – with guns in the 1860s and water canons in the 1960s – may help answer that question.)

We are also hearing the “slippery slope” argument invoked at every opportunity: if now this, what’s next? Similarly, we are hearing form many Christians appeals to the Bible that Prop 8 supporters dared not make during the campaign for fear of revealing their obviously unconstitutional desire to influence the state with church directives.

Regarding the “illicitness” of homosexuality in the Bible, allow me to make a few brief observations. It is interesting that the other forms of what many refer to as illicit sexual behavior are actually condoned in the bible. Polygamy was all the rage until Paul encouraged Christians in 1 Cor. 7 to stop getting married altogether (unless, of course, you lacked self control, in which case he asked Christians to limit themselves to merely one wife). Marrying a bride-child under the age of 18 was the norm as long as her father agreed to the price he was paid for her. Incest wasn’t frowned upon because staying in the tribe was considered more important than staying out of your half-sister’s pants.

The point is, there are many things sanctioned in the Bible that are today considered criminal (slavery, suppression of women’s rights, etc.). Today we have remedied many of these things, despite what the biblical text says.

Likewise, there are sexual restrictions in the Bible that modern society has maintained because they are exploitative towards marginalized persons. You can no longer marry or have sex with a child, despite the fact it was done legally all the time in the Bible. It is exploitative of children and therefore forbidden. It is argued that many women in polygamous relationships are suppressed and exploited, so after much debate, the U.S. banished it. I am open to having the debate once again, as it is never wrong to revisit issues that were once decided long ago. But I think we’ll find that on both popular and civil rights grounds, polygamy will not pass muster.

The difference with homosexuality is that it is a decision made by two consenting adults with no victim. Because married couples no longer feel the pressure to produce children, and because few Americans no longer feel that sex is only for the “reproduction of children,” a childless relationship is no longer considered inappropriate. And, because there are no data showing that the presumed negative effect on children being raised outside of a relationship consisting of “one mother and one father” is any greater than children raised in families that have experienced divorce (and there is certainly no constitutional amendment barring divorce or barring divorced individuals from remarrying!) the “it’s bad for the children” argument also falls flat.

This generation has witnessed homosexuality depart the category of “illicit activity” (bestiality, polygamy, incest, etc.) and join the category of previously prohibited biblical activities that modern people (Christians and non-Christians alike) now find acceptable (like eating pork, mixing milk and meat in the same meal, planting different crops side by side, allowing divorced people to remarry, mowing the lawn on Saturday, allowing women authority over men, and, you know… not owning slaves!

“It’s icky” is no longer a good argument against gay marriage. Slippery slope arguments (like, “If we allow gay marriage, then what’s next? Polygamy? Marrying a goat?” etc.) also fall flat on a case-by-case basis because they exploit the civil rights of others (not to mention the goats). Appealing to biblical precedent is hypocritical (see slavery, genocide, etc.), and arguing that it’s “unnatural” casts aside hundreds of other human behaviors that are obviously unnatural and self-destructive like overeating, eating processed foods (what other animal does that?), smoking, drinking, and wearing makeup.

In the end, all that’s left is a simple appeal to the way it’s always been: “preserving traditional marriage.” And just like this same appeal to the status quo has time and again been defeated (slavery, women’s rights, etc.), so too has the restrictions on gay marriage. And this is a good thing. Of course, some will object and deny gay marriage, while others will speak out on the side of equal rights for all. But I believe in the end, many Americans will do as Jesus did and not mention the subject at all. Because most Christians and most Americans simply don’t care about what other people do in their bedrooms… unless a video of it can be accessed anonymously via the internet.

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