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Sunday, April 30, 2023

Told They Can't

Narrated by, Xolo MaridueƱa (star in Cobra Kai, Netflix)

"Told They Can't" is the compelling story of high profile professionals of color from families and backgrounds society doesn't consider ideal. Their parents (if they had family support) didn’t have access to an education, most worked for low pay and had little or no hope for advancement in life.

Their classroom experiences were painful and offensive. They were overlooked, dismissed and marginalized. Unfairly placed in remedial classes, not considered for the advanced readers group, and presumed to be uninterested in college prep classes, yet not even asked.

At home, most faced extreme personal hardships including hunger, poverty, abuse and neglect. No one would ever have predicted each would become a successful professional. Today they are engineers, doctors, medical professors, educators, authors, research scientists and elected state and federal government leaders.

Each one of them deserves our deepest respect and fullest admiration. Their stories make it clear, since they overcame nearly impossible problems to be successful, we all can beat the issues facing us and be successful as well.

So, why were they told they can't? How did society get it so wrong? Their success stories shine a penetrating spotlight on how and why they were so badly misjudged. It's stark glare reveals a familiar false premise, one deeply believed by many in our society - only the ideal few, from a traditional, privileged background and family income level will/can be successful. This is pure myth, daily proven false many times over. Yet, this old fairy tale, when preferred, generates toxic negative stereotypes and prejudices, which foster irrational biases toward others.

The truth is every child (human), has unlimited potential, no matter background, ethnicity, or family income.


Lisa Ramirez, Ed.D - migrant child farm laborer; an author who earned a doctorate in education and served in leadership at the U.S. Department of Education.

Tony Cardenas - His immigrant parents had very little opportunity or education; yet their offspring, including Tony attended college. He became an engineer, community leader and was elected to and serves in the U.S. Congress

Anna M. Caballero - California State Senator, graduate of UCLA law school and UC San Diego. Born to a family of copper miners from Arizona. She has very real world advice for students and parents.

Esteban G. Burchard, MD, MPH - raised in the tough SF Mission Barrio; he studied at Stanford Medical School and Harvard, was a National Health Advisor to President Obama and now is a research scientist at UCSF

Katherine Flores, MD - grew up a migrant child farm laborer; attended college, became an MD, a medical professor and Director of the Latino Center for Medical Education and Research at UCSF Fresno

Fernando S. Mendoza, MD, MPH - son of an immigrant farm worker; he studied at Stanford and Harvard, became a pediatrician, professor of pediatrics and Associate Dean of Diversity at Stanford Medical School

Enrique Diaz - Enrique, when 2, came to the U.S. with his mother, both undocumented. By age 6 he was laboring in the fields, a migrant child farm worker. Enrique earned his computer engineering degree at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where he was recruited and hired as a Research and Development Scientist for Apple in the Silicon Valley

Blanca E. Rubio - as an undocumented child, she was twice deported; today she is a U.S. citizen and elected leader in the California State Assembly

Raul Ruiz, MD, MPH, MPP - grew up a migrant child farm worker; attended Harvard, is an ER doctor and a leader in the U.S. Congress

Ramon Resa, MD – Abandoned age 2, grew up a migrant child farm laborer; earned a degree in medicine, became a pediatrician in the Central Valley to kids like he was. An author, and public speaker


1. REFUSE to accept being told you can’t, even by those in authority. Rather aspire to become all you possibly can, no limits.

2. Acknowledge that every child has limitless human potential, no matter background, ethnicity, or family income.

3. All may overcome seemingly insurmountable problems and challenges, just as the individuals featured in this film have. If they could do it, so can each of us.

4. It's imperative to correct the flawed metrics society uses when forecasting which students have potential for success. Parents, school boards, administrators, teachers, and staff must adopt a more inclusive understanding and appreciation for the human potential of all – not only "ideal" candidates from privileged traditional backgrounds.

5. It's time for deep examination of what is valued and who is admired in our culture and why; move individuals like those featured in this film to the top of the list of heroes we respect, admire, and want to be like. Follow their example.

Every Child Has Limitless Human Potential