Valley Class of 2013: Fall down 7 times, get up 8

May 25, 2013 

To the graduating class of 2013:

You are now and forever part of this Valley. You have now earned your certificate of authenticity, a Valley Diploma.

Part of your life will always be grounded in the dirt here. Inside of all of you is what is called a placed story; a seed has been planted, then germinated and grown into part of your personal history you can- not delete. Some will try denial, but you are part of the San Joaquin Valley forever.

For some of you, your diploma becomes your ticket to escape this Valley. You may be embarrassed by who we are. You can't wait to depart and never look back. However, you are now here.

I admit that I ran away and left for college. But it was too late. Too much had happened inside of me; the Valley had left a mark, and I came back, forever. Over the years, life lessons from this place matured into memories that defined who I am. This place grows on you. Our life journey may only make sense later, when we can look back and connect the dots.

Our Valley provides the perfect locale for transitions. For growing up. Finding love. Discovering hate. Standing up for what's right. Feeling disappointment. Soaring with achievement. We have permission to make mistakes here and understand the capacity to forgive and be forgiven surrounded by family and community.

In this Valley, we are witnessing a revolution. The significance of our land and food, our culture and diversity can not be undervalued. Our families and communities exemplify a society where people and place -- and I cannot underestimate the power of food -- all still matter.

You possess something too rare in today's digital society. You have a treasure that's lost in the virtual world. You now have a rooted identity and, with your diploma, you are now officially part of the "other California."

The Valley is not Los Angeles or San Francisco. It's a place sometimes lost between two mountain chains and in the shadow of urban centers. A place that's beginning to define itself to the world, a place finding its own voice. Each one of you contributes to that voice. Your diploma is your license to scream to the world: You matter because you are from somewhere.

In this Valley, we have a front seat to fundamental changes in our nation. Immigration reform, the high-speed rail project and the Affordable Care Act will change this place. We were once a rigid people, intolerant and narrow. I believe it's different now.

We live in one of the most diverse places in America. Look at the faces gathering around you, graduates. Look at the families and communities who honor you.

You'll see Latinos, Asians, blacks and whites. Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, those with other religions and some with none. Gays, mixed races, blended families. Tall, short, wide, skinny. Old, young and those acting very young. Rich, middle class, poor, and we cannot forget the very, very poor.

The face of the new world is upon us and a power is granted to those who understand and have lived within this diversity. You know this. You have learned how to thrive with difference. Excel with inequalities. Take refuge in the distinctive. Find comfort in the mixed-up world.

Yes, mixed up. We are part of a changing world, and emerging out of that mix will rise a beacon for innovation and creativity. We will not be satisfied with the status quo. You will hunger for more; that's why you honor yourself and your family with a graduation. You possess the willingness to accept, adapt, adopt and excel. And now you add your face to the mosaic of this valley.

For too long, our Valley has been quiet, part of the curse of the "other California." But you have a passion: the drive to accomplish something called graduation and receive a diploma.

You are something special and I implore you to find your voice. Shout. Scream. Demand to be heard. Fulfill the dream of your family and seize opportunity. With your diploma in hand, you now belong. And the future will be wonderfully messy. Life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived.

Is there a Valley tattoo all graduates should wear proudly? What logo or image or words capture the artistic expression on our own flesh? Because it's our bodies, it must be personal.

For me, my Valley tattoo would be a Japanese phrase that tells the story of immigrants in this Valley, a tale of our challenges here in this desert land that captures the spirit of the "other California." My tattoo would read: "nanakorobi ya oki." This means fall down seven times, get up eight.

My personal mantra for the Valley, a slogan of our daily lives, a destiny for our futures. Fall down seven times, get up eight.

You are now and forever part of the Valley, a place defined by those before you who understood -- fall down seven times, get up eight.

As you graduate and leap into the next part of your life's journey, wear our Valley tattoo proudly. Carry our Valley spirit into the bright future. Fall down seven times, get up eight.

Award-winning author and organic farmer David Mas Masumoto of Del Rey writes about the San Joaquin Valley and its people. Email:

The Fresno Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service