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Francisco Salinas

Keeping the dream real


Francisco Salinas breaks barriers for a living. To get there, though, he needed to break a few of his own.

"My parents came to the Pacific Northwest from families of migrant farmworkers. My first job in Washington's Skagit Valley was in the same area where my grandmother used to pick strawberries," said Salinas. "My father didn't finish college, and my mother dropped out of high school when she gave birth to me."

Salinas said he was always "intellectually hungry" as a young man.

"I was one of those first-generation college graduates," he said. "When I got my degree, my father went back to college after he retired and finished his degree."

Today, Salinas is the director for Student Diversity and Inclusion at Boise State University and, in anticipation of a string of events for Boise State's upcoming MLK Living Legacy Celebration, Salinas talked about how yesterday's dreams are tomorrow's hopes.

How do you spend your days at Boise State?

Most of what I do is communication. For example, I'm part of the adjunct faculty for the University Foundations Program, guiding students through concepts and ideas.

Give me an example of that.

I use the book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, where the author, Paolo Freire talks about the so-called "banking model": treating students as an empty vessel to be filled with knowledge, much like a bank. But words are only words until they're applied to our lives. Take, for example, a word so universal as "mother." That might have a different concept to you or me.

Are you saying, as an example, we expand our own horizons by identifying someone else's concept of "mother"?

Exactly. We spend a lot of time in class challenging each other's interpretations of different concepts.

Speaking of concepts, there are many children who only know America with an African-American president. That's about to change pretty dramatically.

But last year's presidential campaign didn't create anything that wasn't already there. For example, our nation sees a growing concern of bias in our criminal justice system. Don't tell me that bias doesn't also exist in something like banking or fashion as well.

Speaking of the end of the Obama administration, I would be remiss if I didn't ask about one of your Living Legacy events: Obama Appreciation Night.

It will be an open mic night. Believe me, students will have a lot to say about Obama.

It's not lost on anyone that your event will be on the evening of Thursday, Jan. 19, the final day of the Obama administration.

It's the end of our nation's first-ever non-white presidency. That's pretty important.

I also see on your schedule of events that you'll have two movie nights [Tuesday, Jan. 17 and Thursday, Jan. 26], when you'll screen Southside With You and The Birth of a Nation.

Film is emotionally powerful. Aristotle taught us that using art was indeed teaching; you're just using a different set of tools. Film does that in a particularly intimate way.

How do you connect Dr. King's legacy to the hearts and minds of 21st century students?

Dr. King identified the triple evils: racism, poverty and war. Those triple evils still exist.

Many people still look at Dr. King's birthday as just another day off from work or school.

It's really a day on, not a day off. Come join our poster-making event. Join our march to the Statehouse. It's an opportunity to honor a legacy that challenges us to create a better world. Those triple evils require our attention more than ever. If you shrink from that responsibility, it's on you.