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Attorney General Rob Bonta delivers keynote speech

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California Attorney General Rob Bonta urged the Cal State Dominguez class of 2023 to find a calling they love — and to fight injustice wherever they see it.

Bonta, the state’s 34th attorney general and the first person of Filipino descent to occupy the office, also congratulated the 730 graduates of CSUDH’s College of Business Administration and Public Policy for overcoming myriad challenges and for advocating for societal change during a commencement address on Saturday afternoon, May 20.

“No one pursuing a college degree expects it to be a walk in the park,” Bonta said, “but what each of you had to endure over the last few years,it was unprecedented.”

The coronavirus pandemic; a rise in xenophobia, homophobia and racism; the specter of mass shootings; and the conequences of climate crisis were among the challenges the attorney general mentioned.

“But your generation hasn’t let that hold you back,” Bonta said. “Instead, you’ve declared Black Lives Matter, March for Our Lives, demand real climate action. You’ve been impatient for change and rightfully so.”

Bonta spoke at the second to last of six commencement ceremonies that took place on Friday and Saturday at Dignity Sports Health Park’s tennis stadium, in Carson. In all, there were more than 3,300 graduates.

“I’m excited to complete this journey and begin a new one,” said Jasmine Jones, who received her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Jones also said she was excited to hear the attorney general speak at her ceremony.

“It’s a big deal that he’s taking time out of his day to come and speak with us and give us encouraging words because I’m sure pretty sure once he was in our shoes,” she said, “and to show us how far we can go.”

Bonta began his speech by encouraging graduates to soak up the moment — but also to continue fighting for change.

“I urge you, keep being impatient for change,” he said. “Keep being intolerant of injustice because you aren’t just the leaders of tomorrow. You’re the leaders of today, and you’re inspiring all of us to do better to be better.”

Bonta was born in Quezon City, Philippines, but immigrated to California with his family as an infant. During his speech, he shared how his passion for justice and fairness was instilled in him by his parents, both of whom were frontline activists on behalf of United Farmworkers and the civil rights movement.

Bonta decided to become a lawyer to help right historic wrongs and fight for people who have been harmed, he said. He worked his way through college and graduated with honors from Yale University, then went on to attend Yale Law School.

When he was a student, Bonta said, there was a lot of uncertainty and doubt, financial struggles, and family problems that tried to get in the way of him finishing college.

“When you hear my bio, it sounds like I followed a linear path,” he said. “I didn’t. It weaved around obstacles and detours and I learned and grew along the way.”

After he was admitted to the California Bar in 1999, Bonta became a deputy city attorney in San Francisco. He then served as an Alameda city councilmember for two years before being elected to the California State Assembly, where he had been a strong advocate for corporate accountability, workers’ rights and stronger environmental protection policies.

He has also fought for criminal justice reform, the end of private prisons and detention centers, and the elimination of cash bail across the state.

Bonta went on to tell graduates to believe how far they have come, and gave them advice on how to silence any fears of not belonging.

“I’ve learned the best way to silence impostor syndrome and make that voice of doubt fade away is to find a calling that you love so much that it doesn’t feel like a job and then focus on the work,” Bonta said. “If you do, you’ll be so focused on what you’re doing that you won’t have time for doubt. It’ll be something different for each of you. For me, it’s public service.”

The many doors that will open for the graduates, Bonta said, will be both exhilarating and paralyzing. His advice for the class of 2023 was to channel their calling and focus on the work they are passionate about.

“Each of you have the ability and responsibility to fight injustice wherever you see it,” Bonta said. “When I look at you, I see an impatient ambition and unlimited potential to make our world a better place.”

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