Educational opportunities for poor and minorities should not happen by a “stroke of luck” but should exist in every neighborhood, U.S. Treasurer Anna Escobedo Cabral said Friday in a lecture at Wake Forest University’s Babcock Graduate School of Management.
Cabral, a fourth-generation Hispanic of Mexican descent who manages the nation’s currency, delivered the keynote address for Diversity Weekend events to a crowd of about 200 at Wake Forest’s MBA school. The crowd included Hispanic students from local public middle schools and high schools.
A native of California who grew up poor, Cabral said she planned to graduate from high school early at 16 and go to work immediately to help support her parents and four younger siblings. Philip Lamm, a high school math teacher, insisted that Cabral consider college. He filled out her college application with her and helped her secure scholarship money.
“It was the greatest gift I ever received from someone outside of my family,” said Cabral, who went on to earn a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government after attending the University of California at Davis. “It opened up amazing opportunities for me. It showed me the power of education.”
She said she combined that gift with what she learned from her parents about “the value of hard work and tenacity.”
“I realized that was a gift that shouldn’t occur just by some sort of stroke of luck,” she said. “It should exist in each and every one of our neighborhoods.”
Cabral said she is reminded of other Hispanics from her poor neighborhood that didn’t get the opportunity she did.
“They were no less capable than I was,” she said. “They just didn’t have a Mr. Phillip Lamm in their life to fill out their college application and go the extra mile.”
Cabral talked supportively of the Bush administration’s economic policies, particularly using tax cuts to spur the growth of small businesses, and discussed how America has adapted to an increasingly diverse population.
“There are people who have not yet learned the value of sharing and learning from one another,” she said. “But I’m thrilled that in my life, I have seen tremendous progress made in how we relate to one another, being from different experiences and different racial and ethnic backgrounds, and in those who understand the value of diversity. Not everybody does, but more and more of us every single day do.”
Cabral was confirmed as the nation’s treasurer by the U.S. Senate in November 2004 after being nominated by President Bush. As treasurer, Cabral works with the U.S. Mint on the design and introduction of new currency and the protection of currency from counterfeiting. Before taking office, Cabral worked in Washington, D.C., for more than 13 years in several positions focused on increasing Hispanic representation in business and government. That included work as deputy staff director for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and as executive staff director of the U.S. Senate Republican Conference Task Force on Hispanic Affairs.
Diversity Weekend, sponsored by the Office of Full-time MBA Admissions at Wake Forest’s Babcock School, gives prospective students a chance to explore the MBA program, and interact with current students and alumni. This year’s theme is “Who is Managing Whom?: Examining the Profound Demographic Changes Affecting Management Professionals.”