Gregorio Sanchez, visiting scholar from Xicotepec, Mexico, read the following letter of thanks to AM Rotary at the July 28 meeting.
Dear Rotarians,
Today I want to read you a letter to express my gratitude.  I will begin by speaking a bit about my life and the ways you have affected my personal and academic development.
As you know, my name is Gregorio Sánchez, I was born in Xicotepec, I study Public Health in Cuernavaca, México and I am currently a visiting scholar in Pharmacy at the University of Iowa.  However, today I would like to share some things that very few of you know about me.
I am an indigenous person, a direct descendant of the Náhuatl people who live near the Gulf of Mexico. We, the descendants of the original inhabitants of the Americas, experience discrimination, and the human rights to which all are entitled are denied to us even in childhood.  Because of being indigenous I had limited access to health care and high-quality education, which in turn limited my opportunities to participate in public life or join certain institutions.
My parents suffered even more discrimination, because in Mexico the socio-economic hierarchies do not afford indigenous people opportunites to move ahead or work for living conditions with dignity. Many indigenous people are left only with the option to work at the bottom of the ladder, as slaves to this hierarchy.  Despite all their efforts, they were not able to give me and my sisters all that they had hoped, and we had very little material or economic resources in our childhood.  However, my parents worked so hard to give us all that they could. They gave me their love, they taught me to believe in God, and more than anything, they helped me be able to make my own decisions.
I chose education and academic training as the best option to invest in a future for my family, my community and myself.  I have spent a large portion of my life in the library, in the middle of books and documents trying to analyze information.  However, I have had to sacrifice other things, like spending time with my sisters, helping care for my parents’ health, finding a partner, going to parties (in Mexico there is a party 365 days a year), learn another language, develop my skills in public speaking, et cetera.  At many times I worried that I had not made the best decision.  However, as I stand in front of you today I am sure that I have not made a mistake and I am eternally grateful to have friends like you with whom I can share ideas about respect for human rights and helping the less fortunate.
Fortunately, despite a less than 5% chance of attending university, my sisters and I had access to higher education and today: my sister Gloria is a professional folk dancer and a special education teacher,  my sister Alejandra is a pharmacist (Chris and Hazel know her), and soon I will graduate with my Master’s in Public Health.
Why do I tell you this?  I wish that when my family had gone through all of these hardships that there had been a group like the Rotary Club to support us in the way that today you support so many in the area where I was born, and that you had alleviated our suffering a little bit.
For several years now I have had the opportunity to participate in Rotary projects, learning a lot about philanthropy and the joy of spending time with Rotarians.  Your tireless service has had a powerful influence on me, especially academically.  After studying for 6 years in university, and getting a degree in biology and biomedical research, I had several options for my master’s degree.  I was about to study renewable energy. However, seeing the work that the Rotary Club does in public health and seeing the dedication of professors like Chris Catney and Hazel Seaba, I decided to study my Master’s in Health Sciences and Health Systems, with a specialization in Public Policy and a focus on vulnerable groups.  Now, my research area is the protection of the rights of elderly indigenous people.
My journey is only beginning, because I hope to continue to a PhD in a similar area, with a focus on gender equity among indigenous women in Mexico.  I hope that my work will be useful, perhaps it is just a drop of water in the ocean but I do it with so much passion that I know it will help with something.  If you all had not inspired me with your work and dedication to help the vulnerable, perhaps I would not be here giving this little speech.  I would probably be in a different country at some summit with intellectuals talking about science and biofuels; which would of course be fine. However, I think that doing something good for people who have had fewer opportunities than I have, and promoting social justice to foster a culture of peace, is one of the best ways for the world to be a better place to live.  And furthermore, the satisfaction of helping others is a wonderful feeling.
I thank you most of all that despite your many activities you take the time to mentor youth in ideals that are based in truth, respect, and social justice, but most of all based in loving one’s neighbor.  As I mentioned earlier, I consider the education of children, adolescents and youth is the best way to change the world.
I admire your dedication to promote social justice and not only do charity.  The programs of the rotary club have an integrated vision that favors the equity of opportunity.  I could go on speaking about the good work Rotary does but I think you know more about this work than I do and I don’t want to bore you.  I bid farewell to you with a phrase from a book called “La Mala Hora,” or “In Evil Hour” by a popular Latin American author, Gabriel García Márquez: "yo creo que todavia no es demasiado tarde para construir una utopia que nos permita compartir la tierra" “I think it still is not too late to build a utopia that allows us to share the land”.  Let’s make this utopia together.  Thank you very much!