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How a pair of shoes became the inspiration for a UNC commencement speech

Posted at 5:02 PM, May 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-29 19:02:24-04

GREELEY, Colo. — An unlikely object was used as the source of inspiration for a college commencement speech in Greeley: a pair of shoes.

“The last time I was on a stage like this I was taking part in my 8th grade continuation,” University of Northern Colorado student body president Tim Hernández told the crowd at the school’s spring commencement.

Hernández went on to tell a story of how his father bought him his first pair of dress shoes, shoes that were too big at the time, the day before that continuation. But it was what happened the week before that would help shape his speech and his life.

“I turned in my final assignment for my 8th grade English class and I expressed my excitement with my 8th grade English teacher. I said I’m interested in writing. I really like doing this,” he told Denver7.

“She replied and said, 'Tim that’s great but people like you don’t write,'” he said in his speech.

Tim went on to say that moment stuck with him. So did something else; his shoes.

“I’m proud to say that today I stand on the stage of a college graduation in the exact same pair of dress shoes I wore in my 8th grade continuation,” Hernández said enthusiastically to the crowd.

The moment was met with loud applause.

“To be able to share that and say even in light of systemic obstacles here I stand on a stage in front of you in a position to demonstrate everyone in this world is capable,” he said.

Hernández is an English major, focusing on education, and will receive his diploma after completing a semester of student teaching. He had one takeaway for those listening to his speech.

“If we can take people who are told they’re not capable of success and directly and intentionally and actively invest in them, we can very quickly see that success is for everybody,” he said.