Campaign Launch Speech: Charles Bufalino '10
October 16, 2010
This speech was delivered at the Campaign Pomona: Daring Minds launch dinner after the main launch event on Saturday, October 16, 2010.
Good evening. First and foremost, let me express my deepest gratitude to Pomona for making my education possible; without financial aid I would not be here tonight. Like Kimbia, I am honored to be with you; we both feel we are speaking on behalf of all students who are grateful for their Pomona education. As you saw in the video, my great faculty mentor was Professor Robert Woods. Let me say at the outset how grateful I am for his countless acts of kindness and tutelage throughout my time at Pomona.
In the beginning of my junior year, I was asked to speak at a gathering of the L.A. Philanthropic Foundation. I was to look into the future and try to describe the type of work for which my education was preparing me. It was a difficult request.
In fact, I had recently decided not to become a history professor, a career I had contemplated from my sophomore year of high school. Perhaps, as you watched the video, you wondered if the philosophy of history might not seem to have a somewhat narrow focus… a fair question, certainly. In fact, I was wondering what was I going to do.
At the same time, I was more drawn to the idea of working in the field of poverty relief. My upbringing and education had always encouraged me to consider the political, social and spiritual consequences of poverty—both on individuals and on society. My parents drummed into me that my own successes were due largely to my good fortune in having a dedicated family and community; and that, conversely, individuals less fortunate had much more to overcome on a daily basis than I could ever imagine. This prompted me to ask: In a land of opportunity, were there truly opportunities for all, and if not, how could they be created? The answer, of course, is through education.
On campus, there were reminders. Walking to class in Mason Hall or Pearsons, I would pass by the College Gates and be struck by the poignancy of its inscription. It added to my conviction that whatever I would do, it must be imbued with President Blaisdell’s charge.
Last fall, during my senior year and in between drafts about Guicciardini, I began to research organizations that are trying to combat poverty through education. I found Rocketship Education, an organization operating public, charter elementary schools for low-income students around San Jose. It was a near perfect match, exactly the type of work that interested me, with an organization that boldly and unequivocally claimed, “Poverty and individual circumstance are only an accident of history. We believe that low-income students can achieve at just as high a level as high-income students, and we will prove it.”
I was hired to staff Online Learning, a part of the Technology team, to research, trial [try out?], and manage the various online programs and curricula that our students utilize. When I tell former classmates I’m on a Technology team (no exaggeration here, I assure you) they laugh hysterically and usually say something like, “I didn’t know they had computers in the Renaissance!”
To be honest, I had some apprehensions, but I soon realized that my job actually required me to analyze different methods of instruction, to think critically about what best met our students’ needs, and to communicate clearly about how these programs could be made even better. The skills were identical to the ones imparted to me on the first day of my Critical Inquiry seminar—a mandatory first class for all Pomona Freshmen. I dove into online learning, reaffirmed and energized by the intellectual foundation received at Pomona and convinced of its importance.
I feel fortunate to be doing something about which I feel passionate. I look toward the future with confidence because I know I can draw upon lessons learned at Pomona. Many classmates have had similar experiences, and I suspect many alumni here tonight have similar stories to tell.
I am convinced that Pomona will continue to provide these opportunities to future students who will think critically and collaboratively, draw upon their collective talents and experiences, and carry with them the daring, faith, and resolve to tackle the most intransigent issues facing society, and, indeed, the world.