Students set to break longest speech records, seek federal attention

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez holds the record for the longest political speech at almost nine hours.

But student body President Cesar Hernandez hopes to beat that by 15 hours.

On Tuesday, Hernandez is scheduled to begin a 24-hour speech at 10 a.m. in front of Cooper Hall. After his speech, he said he has about 75 students scheduled to beat the longest team speech, which was about 72 hours.

However, Hernandez said the event is not about breaking world records but rather about getting voters’ concerns heard in Washington and, hopefully, bringing President Barack Obama to USF to answer them.

“You can’t really plan for things like this,” Hernandez said. “I know I’m going to be able to do it and what I’m trying to get across here is that it’s not about me. I really want to form a catalyst of people saying, ‘Wow, he spoke for 24 hours. I can at least give 10 minutes.'”

According to a press release, a few topics that will be outlined are cuts to the education budget and immigration reform.

“The reason why the educational budget is a topic is this: I remember when I traveled to Southwest United States and talked to a Native American … where they would talk about their system of government and how is it in ancient times that we’re able to govern our people,” Hernandez said. “What they did was they created something called a children’s fire and they would take all the elders … to have a direct representation of the tribe, but in the center were the children, and they would center their tribe around the next generation. Does America feel that they have the children’s fire? … No, they do not. Now imagine an America that would.”

Hernandez said he knew a student who was an illegal immigrant with a 6.2 GPA in high school, but couldn’t afford to attend college because he would receive out-of-state tuition.

“He’s been here since he was 5 years old. So guess who he’s going to become? He’s going to work at a franchise. He’s going to work at McDonald’s. We just lost a scholar,” he said. “The only glimmer of light that we have in this huge dark room is SB 318. It’s the only thing we have to a comprehensive immigration reform plan. Say you’re in Florida, you graduate from a high school in Florida, we will invest in you, you can pay in-state tuition, if applicable, you can apply for financial aid and you have to be on track to becoming a citizen. We will be able to (have) a scholar.”

Omar Rodriguez, a sophomore majoring in history and international studies, will speak for six hours immediately following Hernandez’s 24-hour speech.

“We’ve been talking about this for some months now, but it never formulated,” he said. “I started thinking about it, and whenever he came up to me and said we’re doing it, I thought it was crazy, (but) then I started thinking this could make a difference.”

Rodriguez said he will talk about past leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and George Washington.

“Often times, we are in a society where we expect other people to do things. People don’t take initiatives. They are reactive rather than proactive,” he said. “What my aim is going to be during my speech is to inform the people who are listening and give them examples of leaders in the past who made a difference because they stood up.”

Hernandez said members of Lambda Theta Alpha, Lambda Upsilon Lambda and his fraternity, Lambda Theta Phi, are scheduled to speak – each for at least 30 minutes. He said he already plans for the speeches to continue into Thursday.

“If I don’t try to do something here for the students here at USF or everyone in my generation, I think it would be a great disservice,” he said.

Hernandez invited students to hear his plans for the speeches Thursday night in the Marshall Student Center Senate Chambers.

Stacey Galvez, a junior majoring in English literature, said she heard of the announcement two hours prior.

“I was … intending to go home and Cesar came down and said, ‘Hey, we’re having a meeting upstairs. We’re going to get Obama on campus.’ I wanted to see how he was going to do that,” she said. “I’m not politically inclined. It got me really excited. I know every single one of us has a problem with money. I can’t afford to be taking out so many student loans and not having enough money to eat even while in school.”

Galvez said she will consider doing a speech. Though she said she is shy when talking in front of people, there are education issues that bother her.

“I have two cousins – 17 and 12 – and they go to charter school. If their education suffers because of these budget cuts, it’s going to make me angry because they are very bright and I would just hate to see them suffer because of lack of education,” she said. “When I first heard (his plan), I was like, ‘He’s crazy. This man is crazy,’ (but) I’m excited to see what’s going to happen.”

Hernandez said he doesn’t know what to expect for the week.

“I’m still young so I’m literally just driving my body to the wall,” he said. “Not only am I sacrificing my body and my mind, but I’m taking a full 24 hours and dedicating it to my generation, and not too many people can say that.

“If you’re a student … and you’re angry and you want to voice your opinion, stop talking about it, start being about it. I’m literally giving you the avenue to be about it.”