The Power of Possibilities

MALDEF Los Angeles Awards Gala 2012

November 08, 2012

MALDEF Los Angeles Awards Gala 2012

Remarks prepared for delivery

Good evening.  It is truly an honor to be here with all of you…and to represent Walmart in the presence of such remarkable people.  I am joined by many members of the Walmart team, and we are all so proud to support MALDEF.

When I learned about the chance to be here with you, I jumped at the opportunity.  Because this organization is important.  Not just to Latinos.  MALDEF is shaping the way people across the country think about human rights…about equality.

Gisel Ruiz MALDEF Gala 2012

Providing access to education.  A voice in the political arena.  Jobs.  A brighter future.

And that brings us to tonight.  Tonight is a celebration of our heritage… an acknowledgement of how far we’ve come. 

We are honoring three incredibly special people this evening who embody qualities of a true leader.  Courage.  Conviction.  Compassion.  Characteristics that inspire support, and more importantly, action.  Their commitment to social justice has made this world a better place.  To each of them, we say congratulations and thank you for inspiring us.

So why was I asked to speak to you?  Two reasons: my personal story and my job.

We all have our own unique story.  Our personal history that has defined who we are today.  Mine started in the fields of the San Joaquin Valley here in California, where my parents, Pilar and Martha Jurado, met and fell in love.  Their lives were full, but also very challenging.

Both from humble backgrounds, they had a determination inside them that wanted more for their two daughters.  But they didn’t just dream of a better life for us…they fought for it.  And they pushed us…pretty hard. 

They always told me that I could do whatever I wanted to do…the only barriers were ones we created ourselves.  You see my mother had a sixth grade education.  My father never went to school a day in his life.  That didn’t matter.  Their fierce determination, passion for creating a better life for us, their strong faith in God and love for their family gave them the drive to work harder and achieve more.  It’s this upbringing that is the greatest gift my parents could have ever given me and my sister.

I’m the daughter of two field workers.  I’m 42 years old.  I’m a woman.  I’m a Latina.  And 20 years after beginning my Walmart career as a management trainee here in California, I stand before you today as the COO of Walmart US.  The first-ever female and Latina to hold that title.  Something most people might not have imagined possible. 

But it is possible.  Because of people like you and my beloved parents, companies like Walmart.  Because of what we are able to accomplish together as part of organizations like MALDEF.

I’m proud of my story.  Proud of my roots and proud of how far I’ve come.  And I love my job.  Every day…I get to help people.  The 200 million customers who walk through our doors every week.  The 1.2 million associates who run our stores every day.  Many of them Latinos who want more…deserve more. 

And that’s the second reason I’m here tonight.  I work for Walmart.  Like everyone who’s part of MALDEF, Walmart cares about Latinos.  Cares about the challenges we face.  Cares about making our lives better.

Walmart is taking a stand!  Providing jobs, scholarships and career opportunities to members of our community.

In fact, one of Walmart’s brightest stars came to us through MALDEF.  Gabriela Garcia, now a leader of our Human Resources organization, was a recipient of the MALDEF law school scholarship. Her journey is such a perfect example of what happens when ambition and talent find resources and support. 

And this is what we need to remember…every company…every individual here has the power to make a difference…to change the world.  The scale doesn’t have to be global to make a meaningful difference.  What matters is taking action, striving for more…for our generation and future generations.

I am so grateful for the opportunity I have as part of Walmart to impact people…to help them live better. 

But at the end of the day, what matters most to me is how to translate my experiences to my daughters…how to share what I’m learning in a way that shapes who they are becoming.

It’s people like tonight’s honorees and all of you who serve as the example…the ideal…the proof of how one individual’s sense of purpose can drive change and improve the world.

When I get back home tomorrow and I’m tucking my girls into bed, I will tell them about my time with you and I will remind them of what’s possible…what’s possible for them…what will be possible for their children.

You have those moments in life when you just feel so incredibly lucky…so proud to be Latino.  Tonight is one of those nights for me.

Congratulations again to our honorees.  And thank you all for what you are doing to build brighter futures for Latinos in our great country

Have a great evening!