Daisy Cocco De Filippis  is the president of Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury, and today became the ceremonial Dominican Mayor for the Day during a ceremony in City Hall. Photographs by John Murray

After singing the American national anthem, the crowd turned towards a Dominican flag waving outside City Hall and sang the national anthem of the Domincan Republic, Quisqueyanos Valientes.

De Filippis was assisted in the ceremonial flag raising by her husband, left, and Victor Diaz, right, the Deputy Commissioner of the DMV in Connecticut. During her remarks inside City Hall, Dr. De Filippis said Diaz was like a son to her.

Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary has repeatedly stated that one of his favorite parts of his job is participating in ethnic mayor for the day ceremonies.

Dr. De Filippis was confined to a wheel chair during the ceremony due to an injured foot. She read the remarks while sitting down….

   “Good morning, muy buenos días.  It is a joy to be here with all of you, to celebrate our Dominican-American presence here, the beautiful city of Waterbury.  For the beauty of this morning,  I thank so many, his Honor, the Mayor of Waterbury, Neil O’Leary, Deputy Commissioner Victor Diaz, and members of the Dominican-American family in Waterbury.  I am grateful for the presence here of friends and of my Naugatuck Valley Community College family.

   The responsibility of representing the Dominican-American community on this magnificent day fills me with pride and gratitude.  How generous it is to single me out but how important it is to recognize in my person the importance of education in the life of a community.

   As Dominicans, the product of a half island in the Caribbean, we learned resiliency of spirit, entrepreneurship and an ability to adapt and to learn and to grow from the challenges placed before us.  The palm tree, nuestra palmera, in a sense exemplifies our spirit and our island survival skills:  half islands are subject to invasions, to hurricanes and to the influx of many.  Through it all, the Palm tree survives because of its adaptability and acceptance of changes.  In fact, it thrives tall and proud, bringing beauty, and warmth, and much needed shade when heat waves come upon us.

   We come to this beautiful and generous nation:  A nation of democratic principles and of opportunity.  A place where a thirteen year old girl, frightened and confused by changes in her family, and by having to leave behind a beloved grandmother, would find purpose and support and encouragement from her teachers, professors and colleagues, and the loving family she was able to create, so that today she can join you, proudly, to thank this beautiful city for its welcome and for its support.

   The pine trees with their bright hopeful shades of green have welcomed us to this splendid land.  They are reminders of the value of nature and the power of Yankee ingenuity.  They are companions of lives dedicated to the greater good, and a guide for all of us to follow.  It is marvelous/maravilloso to be a Dominican-American, the proud members of two giving and supportive homelands/patrias.

   And now, “voy a aprovechar la ocasión”, I am going to seize this moment to talk about a subject very dear to my heart and very important to our Dominican-American community, to the Latino and all other communities in Waterbury:  La educación de nuestros jóvenes, the education of our young people.

   The great Gabriela Mistral, Chilean poet and educator, and the first Nobel laureate of Latin America, reminded us always that “el futuro de los niños es siempre hoy.  Mañana sera tarde.”  The future of our children must always be today, for tomorrow is too late.  And our beloved Puerto Rican thinker and educator, Eugenio María de Hostos would often remind us:  “No basta enseñar conocimientos, hay que enseñar a adquirirlos; no basta dar ciencia hecha; es necesario enseñar a formarla; no basta sujetarse y sujetar la enseñanza en un método; es necesario enseñar a manejarlo.  En una palabra; no basta enseñar a conocer; hay necesidad de enseñar a razonar. Teach our people to reason; teach our young people to be life-long learners.  Create a space for education to have meaning for them, to enter the imagination as a very real possibility for their lives.

   As I consider my options today, as your Mayor for the Day, my heart and mind come together in issuing this symbolic proclamation:  Let all middle-school children be prepared to enter an introductory Algebra course by ninth grade; Let all high schools require algebra, geometry and trigonometry as requirements for graduation.  Let high school students take two science lab courses. Let children in our schools learn to love books, to read and to write, and provide them with a rigorous introduction to the Humanities.  Let all high school students have a pathway to Naugatuck Valley Community College, ours and Watebury’s very own splendid bridge to a better life.

   I conclude by thanking this generous city for their supportive and warm welcome from day one, and by telling our Quisqueyanos and quisqueyanas valientes, that we are here to build today the educational opportunities our children need to succeed tomorrow.   For you and yours, I wish a thousand splendid suns and offer many, many thanks.  Mil gracias y bendiciones.”

A father and daughter shared a nice moment during the ceremony.

After the ceremony Dr. De Filippis  was introduced to a special guest; a firefighter, left, from the Dominican Republic city of Santo Domingo.