Speech by David Medina at Chinquapin's 2017 Gala at the River Oaks Country Club:
Thanks, Stephen, for the generous words. I want to take this moment to thank all the sponsors of the gala, many of whom are close friends of mine. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for contributing to Chinquapin’s success.
I know that Francine Willis promised that all the speeches tonight would be brief. But I think it was Mark Twain who said “I didn’t have time to write a short speech so I wrote a long one.” So you might want to refresh your drinks. (Just kidding.)
When I was in the third grade I used to sell newspapers at the Highland Village. I sold copies of the Houston Chronicle at the corner of Westheimer and Drexel Dr., where a Woolworths store stood and now is a Smith and Wollensky restaurant. Who would have thought that today I would be honored at the River Oaks Country Club, just a few miles from where I sold newspapers in the evenings for 10 cents. This is a great country, isn’t it? This is a country where stories such as mine are allowed to unfold, thanks in large part to the education provided by schools such as Chinquapin.
So when Marilu Garza and Laura Henry called to ask if it would be okay to honor me at the next Chinquapin Gala, I thought about it for half a second before I said “Yes!”
How could I turn down my beloved school, a school that took me in the seventh grade from Second Ward, where I grew up, and offered me the kingdom of knowledge? How could I turn down a school who took me as a barrio boy from immigrant parents and gave me another language with which to learn and to express myself, and thus to excel. I still remember when Bob Moore, founder of the school, taught me grammar. He and I would sit at the dining table after school and he would draw stick figures to explain to me the functions of the subject, verb, and direct object. Once I understood that, he would move on to other grammatical points. As I responded to his instructions with the zeal of a new convert, his expectations of me grew. He made me write one sentence, then another, then a paragraph, then a page. And then I wrote everyday.
He patiently taught me the joys of reading by introducing me to the great American authors: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Thoreau, Baldwin, Salinger and Twain. The more I desired to learn, the more Mr. Moore gave me. He believed in me and I believed in the school, and that made all the difference in my success.
So again how could I turn down an offer from a school that believed in diversity before that concept was even popular in this country? Chinquapin taught me to respect others regardless of their race, ethnicity, sexuality or place in society. The school instilled in me the egalitarian idea that we could all learn from each other. I took to heart the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “… Every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.”
Yes, how could I refuse to be honored by a school that taught me the value of Quid Pro Quo, Something for Something? I received, and thus I must give back. I received an excellent education and for that, I have tried to give through community outreach efforts and mentoring.
I received an outstanding education, thanks to teachers such as Mr. Moore, Grant Thomas and Bill Heinzerling, who with his wife, Cathy, later became a codirector of the Chinquapin School. And thanks to the leadership of Laura Henry and Marilu Garza, the school continues to give hard-working students, whose parents never went to college, a chance to succeed in higher education and become industrious members of our communities. Chinquapin has taken students from working-class families and sent many to the top universities in the nation, such as Rice, Harvard, Stanford, and the University of Texas. Many of these students have gone on to shine in their careers and have given back to their communities.
So, when I was asked if I would be honored by Chinquapin, I said yes. I said yes because the school gave me the tools to find my success. Yes, because Chinquapin taught me to love others. Yes, because this five-day boarding school gave me a language with which to express myself. Yes, because the tiny institution made me a reader and a writer. Yes, because my teachers showed me that life is a long lesson from which I will always learn. Yes, because Chinquapin is a pebble in a pond, whose concentric waves continue to expand in helping others. Yes, because I love this school.
Thank you. Thank you for this award. It’s a tremendous honor to represent the school, and Chinquapin will always be in my heart. Thank you.