Sample Speech # 3
Choosing the Right Path
by Elpidio Villarreal
special occasion speech delivered by Elpidio Villarreal, a lawyer from
Thank you, Linda Willett, for that kind introduction. My sincere gratitude to the PRLDEF for this great honor…
I want to spend just a few minutes sharing my personal opinions on an issue dividing the nation in this election year—immigration. In particular, I want to talk about how my own history and that of my family colors my view of this issue. I will not suggest that this nation does not have a right to control and police its own borders. This right is, in fact, an essential attribute of nationhood. Nor do I mean to suggest that immigration is not a legitimate subject of national debate; it surely is. But I think it is important that the debate be framed by facts, not fictions.
Underlying the ongoing debate over immigration is one central idea—that somehow the current wave of Mexican immigrants coming to this country is fundamentally different from prior waves of immigrants. Mexicans, so the argument goes, are “different” for two main reasons:
They are disloyal. They allegedly remain loyal to
There are three particularly prominent advocates of the view that Mexican Americans are “different”—(1) Harvard Professor Samuel P. Huntington; (2) political pundit and ex-presidential candidate Pat Buchanan; and (3) Representative Tom Tancredo of Colorado. Here is what they have to say.
Huntington—“The assimilation successes of past [immigrants] are unlikely to be
duplicated with the contemporary flood of immigrants from
Buchanan—“A spirit of separatism, nationalism, and irredentism is alive in the
barrios.” “We are inviting La Reconquista, the reconquest of the Southwest by
Tancredo—“For years I have witnessed a difference in the kinds of people coming
I have to tell you that when I listen to these guys (let's call them Los Tres Amigos)—when I listen to Los Tres Amigos describe Mexican Americans it's like an out-of-body experience. I am 46 years old and I've been a Mexican American all my life. The people Los Tres Amigos describe in such derogatory and paranoid terms are nothing like the Mexican Americans I know. Nothing at all.
us deal first with this Reconquista idea. I realize that there are a very few
Mexican Americans who do talk about La Reconquista, but they are hardly typical
or representative of Mexican Americans as a whole. Indeed, I suspect there are
more White Southerners who openly call for a return of the Confederacy than
there are Mexican Americans who call for the “reconquest” of
Next time you catch the Honor Roll of the Dead on the PBS Nightly News Hour notice how many of the names and faces are Mexican, or other Hispanic. These Mexican Americans sure have a peculiar way of demonstrating their disloyalty.
Buchanan complains bitterly about the fact that some of the people protesting
the immigration “reform” proposals pending before Congress this spring were
waving Mexican flags. He cites this as proof that their political allegiance
My Uncle Guadalupe was drafted during the Second World War. But he didn't want to go. He became, in fact, a draft dodger. One day, the MPs came to the family house to get him. My uncle hid in a shed in the back of the yard. The MPs knew he was home and they told my grandfather that if he persuaded his son to come with them peacefully, they would not hurt him. My grandfather went to my Uncle Lupe and told him that he had to go. My uncle said he didn't want to go because he knew, he knew in his heart, that he would die. He had foreseen his own death. My Grandfather told him that it didn't matter. Even if it were true, and even if he was destined to die, he still had to go because this was our country now.
Uncle Lupe surrendered peacefully to the MPs. On June 6, 1944, he landed at a
I said, these Mexican Americans have a peculiar way of demonstrating their
disloyalty. The fact is that, in all my life, I have never heard any member of
my large family voice even one unpatriotic word. It sickens me to hear Los Tres
Amigos question their loyalty. “Never mind about all that,” say Los Tres
Amigos. The real problem is that “you people” are not assimilating, not
becoming “real” Americans, not learning the beautiful English language, the
language of Shakespeare, the King James Bible, and, er, South Park. This idea is also a fiction. In this world, at this
point in its history, NO ONE can withstand the overpowering force of the
English language. It is everywhere and it is 24/7. TV and American pop culture
are the great assimilators—final proof that the world really is flat. I know
wealthy people in
According to a study published last month in the Population & Development Review, by the third generation, the grandchildren of the original immigrants, only 17 percent of Mexican Americans speak fluent Spanish. By the fourth generation, the generation represented by my children, only 5 percent do. Regardless of ability to speak Spanish, by the third generation, 96 percent of Mexican Americans prefer to speak English at home. I am not saying this is an unalloyed good thing, only that it is inevitable.
My grandparents spoke very little English. My parents are bilingual. I am ashamed to admit my Spanish is pretty poor. And my children speak only the Spanish they've learned in school. It is only a question of time. It is true, and very upsetting, that the educational achievement of Mexican Americans, while improving, continues to lag behind the general population, even into the second and third generations. There are certainly lots of reasons for that. (Personally, having spent some time volunteering in our modern urban schools, it's a minor miracle anyone gets educated in them.) But do these educational shortcomings mean, as Los Tres Amigos imply, that Mexicans are stupid? Of course not. My father is a high school graduate—as are all of his siblings—a considerable achievement for their time. My mother is a high school dropout, but she would be angry with me if I failed to point out that she later received her GED and, indeed, a couple of semesters of credit at a local junior college. They each held a series of tough, dead-end jobs until they were both lucky enough to become federal employees.
money was always tight. They had two sons. Though my parents did not get very
far in school, they understood the importance of education and sacrificed to
send their children to the best schools they could afford, the local Catholic
schools. Their oldest son graduated from
daughters, who are both here tonight, are the real Luceros. Both of my children
were identified early on as “gifted” by the
take a good look at my girls. According to Los Tres Amigos, they represent the
greatest existing threat to the future of
And it is on the basis of these absurd fictions that Los Tres Amigos, and others who agree with them, propose to conduct a debate on the need for immigration “reform.” I think that Los Tres Amigos should be afraid of my daughters. They, and millions of Latinos just like them, are growing up fast. They are growing up strong, and they are growing up smart, and they will have zero patience for the prejudiced and the ignorant. And THAT, Mis Tres Amigos, that is what you need to be afraid of.
attacks upon Mexican Americans are, I confess, particularly hard to take from
the Buchanans and Tancredos of this world who descend from immigrants who were
themselves once derided as stupid, criminally predisposed, uneducable,and
genetically inferior. In 1891, the “great” Henry Cabot Lodge had this to say
about the wave of immigration that brought Representative Tancredo's
grandparents to the
So, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Not fundamental differences amongst immigrants, but, instead, merely a persistence of prejudice, ignorance and xenophobia—and, oh yes, a total absence of any sense of irony.
90 years ago, my Grandfather Francisco crossed the
I like to think they would have been pleased to see me accept this award. They would have been proud of me and even prouder, I believe, of my astounding daughters. They led hard and unsentimental lives, as did all my grandparents and their children. But, in the end, they found a home here. This country was brave and strong enough to give their descendants a chance to succeed or fail–their own chance to Achieve the Dream. One of my greatest fears is that we are seeing the passing of that Great Country—replaced by one governed by fear—of the future, of the present, and of “the other.”
Two paths are open to us. One path would keep us true to our fundamental values as a nation and a people. The other would lead us down a dark trail; one marked by 700-mile-long fences, emergency detention centers and vigilante border patrols. Because I really am an American, heart and soul, and because that means never being without hope, I still believe we will ultimately choose the right path. We have to.
Thank you for listening. And thanks once again to PRLDEF for this great honor.
1. What is the general purpose of this speech?
2. What is the specific purpose of this speech?
3. How would you describe Villarreal's credibility?
4. Which type of organizational pattern does Villarreal use in this speech?
5. What type of claim does the speaker argue?
6. Are there any ways in which the appeals in this speech could be made more persuasive?
7. How does Villarreal conclude his speech?