I walked in to the house at an unexpected moment. I opened the door to see my mother weeping in the kitchen. She was ashamed that I had seen her crying; her exasperation could not be contained. The immigration backlog had taken a toll on our family. It had been years since my father had submitted our applications for residency. The situation was still unresolved.
I walked across the stage to receive my Bachelors in Government from the University of Texas after having had the privilege of listening to Liz Carpenter give the commencement speech. “Do what you love,” Ms. Carpenter told the graduates. My family and close friends sat in the audience. That day, I became the first in my family to graduate from college in the United States. That moment seemed unthinkable only a few years before.
I walked on the University of Texas campus – something I had not had the luxury of doing prior to being accepted. I was in an unfamiliar environment. One where, unlike the border-town I had grown up in – my peers didn’t look like me.
Oddly enough it was in this environment that I learned the most about myself and my culture. It was on this campus that I came of age politically and became an advocate for my community, and specifically for the immigrant community. I was a student during the time that the infamous Sensenbrenner bill attempted to criminalize millions of Latinos across the country. I was a student when the Young Conservatives of Texas organized “Immigrant Hunts” on campus. I was a student during the time that immigration activists were spurring on campuses across the nation. I became obsessed with activism, public policy, and all the intricacies of government.
I walked in to the Texas State Capitol. I walked past the groups of older white men in suits and cowboys hats that are a common fixture during the legislative session. I walked in for my first day of work as communications director and policy analyst for a State Representative who was a respected Democrat. I was watching it all happen. I was working in the building that seemed unthinkable and out of reach just a few years before.
I walked out of my office to meet a camera crew. They pinned a microphone on my jacket. Before asking for my opinion on the Republican presidential debate from the prior night they asked me to state my name and title for the record. “Rebecca Acuña, Communications Director for the Texas Democratic Party,” I said with a grin that could not be contained. Unthinkable?
“Do what you love.” And, “You reach for the unthinkable to illustrate to all those who look up to you that the unthinkable is more than possible. This is how you advance a community.” These words of wisdom, from very different people, push me and will forever stay with me.
Rebecca Acuña is the Communications Director for the Texas Democratic Party- the first Latina in that role. She was born in Mexico, and grew up in Laredo with her family. She obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Government from the University of Texas at Austin.