I’m a little late on this news item, but it’s worth noting.
The University of Texas System has picked Francisco Cigarroa, a transplant surgeon, to be their new chancellor. He becomes the first Hispanic to lead a large public university system in America.
I say congrats to Dr. Cigarroa. It’s always good to erase the phrase “no Latino has ever” from discussions of leadership and accomplishment. The man even had to accept a pay cut to take the job, so he must really want to do it.
Perhaps his appointment is some sort of karmic balancing act that offsets the withdrawal of Bill Richardson (aka, the most famous Latino leader) from Obama’s cabinet. By the way, I’m still not sure what Richardson did that was so egregious, but the convoluted nature of his offense indicates that it was more politically stupid than actively criminal.
In any case, Cigarroa’s new gig represents a milestone for Hispanic leadership. But it is also more than that. The doctor’s quote upon taking the job was telling.
“I believe education is the equalizer of all mankind,” Cigarroa said. “The fact that I am blessed by being Hispanic carries an important responsibility for being a mentor and role model.”
First off, I like the reference that one is “blessed by being Hispanic.” It doesn’t always feel that way.
More important, however, is Cigarroa’s subtle acknowledgement that part of his job is to push Hispanics to take advantage of education’s power. Latinos have lagged behind other groups when it comes to graduation rates, test scores, and advanced degrees. There are several reasons for this, ranging from the travails of immigrant life to overt racism (sorry people, it still exists).
But I’ve always believed that the chief culprit is self-created. The lack of respect, sometimes bordering on disdain, that education receives in Latino culture is alarming. I’ve written about this before, and no doubt will again.
I doubt that one person’s appointment will change the attitude of those Hispanic parents who simply don’t emphasize the importance of education to their kids. But at least one educator recognizes how vital it is. And it helps that he was once one of those kids and knows what he’s talking about.