Cesar Hernandez, former USF Student Body president, fits in a White House visit during his summer travels.
TAMPA, Fla. (May 23, 2011) – When Cesar Hernandez met the President of the United States two weeks ago, he used his cell phone to capture the moment. He got a hearty laugh from the leader of the free world. But he also had something serious to say.
“I asked President Obama to come to USF for a youth summit to tackle issues that my generation faces, such as immigration and education. He should be talking to us, the young people, the ones who helped him get elected,” Hernandez said. “For example, immigration is not only an Hispanic issue, it’s an American issue that requires a solution involving all Americans. He’s going to have to consult my generation, not just the people around him in Washington D.C. because we’re the ones who will have to live with the results.”
He said Obama told him he’d look into it.
“Most people would be satisfied just to be at the White House and get their picture taken with the President. Something different happened to me. I wanted to have a conversation and offer advice. It’s important to break through the distance between us and the people running our country.”
The former USF Student Body Government president was one of two students invited to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with the President and the First Lady. He may get another chance to make his case this weekend when President Obama addresses a policy conference he’s attending hosted by AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee), again in Washington. But if not – he’ll be one of 1,500 students this time – there’s always the possibility their paths may cross again given the trajectory of Hernandez’s life.
Ever since winning top honors at the prestigious Education Without Borders 6th Annual International Student conference in Dubai, UAE in April with a speech on immigration reform, Hernandez has been receiving invitations to travel throughout the world. This means spending time with established and up-and-coming leaders and a passport filling up with stamps.
He’ll travel with AIPAC to Israel for a conference on US-Israeli-Middle East relations, followed by a trip to Zurich for the One Young World conference (if the needed funding comes through). And then it’s off to Russia for the International Youth Forum, Seliger 2011. As if that’s not enough, he heads to Las Vegas for the Lambda Theta Phi national convention (he was USF chapter president and now serves on his fraternity’s board) before heading to the Hasselbein Academy conference in Pittsburgh.
Each of these is a prominent event that draws high achieving students, scholars, policy-makers and business leaders. Then he’ll fit in a quick trip home to New York City before returning to USF to bury himself in the books.
“I want to finish strong in my final months here, so I will need to take a step back,” Hernandez said. “I also need time to reflect on all of what’s happened in these past few months and in the past three years.”
Hernandez, serious and thoughtful, yet confidently down-to-earth, describes himself as a truth-seeker. He welcomes all of these opportunities to see the world for himself. It was his first trips to Juarez, Mexico and to Uganda last year working on humanitarian projects, that ignited his desire to travel even more. The trip to Dubai, which brought him together with students from more than 300 universities in 140 countries, convinced him to seek higher education beyond the U.S. - hence an application to Cambridge University in England for graduate school. After that he plans to attend medical school back in the U.S. and eventually run for public office. Immigration and education funding are two issues close to his heart.
But before taking on more leadership responsibilities, Hernandez is paying close attention to all that transpires in his own ever-expanding universe.
“My concerns are global. Technology is making it possible to communicate with my counterparts all over the world, students who are going through similar things especially with immigration,” he said. “Everywhere I go, I’m there to listen and to learn. I want to form my opinions based on knowledge.”
Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.