California Attorney General Xavier Becerra implores Oxy’s Class of 2017 to swing for the fences in fostering change 

Drawing on his experience as a father and 12-term congressman, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra urged the Class of 2017 to work to change the world for the better as the keynote speaker at Occidental’s 135th Commencement ceremony May 21. Becerra wove together advice he received from Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the veteran civil rights leader, with the example set by one of his Eagle Rock neighbors to urge the graduates to not only earn a living but work for change.

“John Lewis would always say to us, as we were getting ready to go into battle on an important issue, ‘If you want to make a difference, you got to get in the way. You got to get into trouble—good trouble,’” Becerra told an audience of 4,000 in Remsen Bird Hillside Theater. He contrasted Lewis’ advice with that of a family friend, Danny House, whose daughter played softball with Becerra’s daughter. “Every time his daughter would get up to bat, Danny always used to say, ‘Vanessa, when you get up there, you be a hitter. If that ball is anywhere close to you, you get up there and smack it.’”

Both men, he said, were delivering the same message: “Every time you have a chance to get up to the plate, you’ve got to take advantage. … Folks, we’re going to change the world. We’re not just going to walk to first base. We’re going to smack that ball and get in the way.”

In closing, Becerra encouraged the new graduates to have the guts, grit, and ganas (“look it up—it’s a great word, a combination of grit and guts and so much more”) “to get up there and be the hitter. If you do that, we will create the next greatest middle class, and we will continue to have the glass half full for this country. That is your mission.”

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