Heart’s Desire & Social Change: Educational Access with Sara Martinez Tucker

Rev. Dan Groody, C.S.C., interviews Notre Dame Trustee and Fellow Sara Martinez Tucker. She will discuss her passion for expanding educational access for the nation’s youth. Sara served as undersecretary at the U.S. Department of Education. She was nominated to that post, the nation’s top higher education official, by President George W. Bush on September 5, 2006, and confirmed by the Senate on December 9, 2006. As undersecretary, she oversaw all policies, programs, and activities related to postsecondary education, vocational and adult education, and federal student aid.

Read the resources provided in advance of the live discussion here: The Heart’s Desire & Educational Access

Read the event recap, watch the video, or listen to the podcast below.


Highlights

  • The main values that have led Sara Martinez Tucker throughout her life are the importance of education, self reliance and hard work. These were instilled in her from a young age and have impacted her life choices since then. (7:59)
  • “The lessons that I learned in those first eighteen years are the ones that have shaped every opportunity I’ve had, whether personal or work-related. (Sara Martinez Tucker, 10:01)
  • When discovering your heart’s desire, ask yourself: What matters the most to me? Am I living the story I want to be living? (22:30)
  • “I started visiting my parents more in Laredo. This time I would visit with the eyes of someone looking in versus me growing up looking out. That was the first time I understood how lucky I was to be born to them.” (Sara Martinez Tucker, 22:59)
  • Sara Martinez Tucker could not have children, so she dedicated herself to helping others become more self reliant through education. Find the intersection between your gifts and the passions and needs of the world around you. (23:55)
  • “Heart’s desire sometimes doesn’t come easily, but put yourself on a journey where you can find your voice and your talents, then discipline yourself to find where those two intersect with your passions. That’s when you can fully be.” (Sara Martinez Tucker, 24:13)
  • “Too many kids that grew up like me, their heritage is their destiny. That’s fine if it’s a choice, but I wanted more kids to have choice.” (Sara Martinez Tucker, 29:03)
  • The definition of our values will likely change throughout our lives, but our commitment to them as an integral aspect of our identities should not. (33:44)
  • “If we believe that in Him all things are brought to completion, then I have to believe that my God, as well as the Blessed Mother, are working with me to make sure that we’re all seen as equal, even if we are unique, and that we all have the ability to reach completion.” (Sara Martinez Tucker, 38:40)
  • View your failures as opportunities for learning and growth. See them as calls for a reset and fine-tuning. (46:15)

Event Recap

The launch event of The Heart’s Desire and Social Change series welcomed Rev. Daniel G. Groody, C.S.C., the Vice President, Associate Provost, and an Associate Professor of Theology and Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame. He was joined by Sara Martinez Tucker, a Notre Dame Trustee and Fellow, as well as a former Undersecretary of Education, proponent of various nonprofit organizations and corporate employee. This series was created to provide a forum for meaningful conversations about things that matter, to provide participants with the opportunity to explore interesting questions and form deeper connections with God and their truest selves. The initial event explored the life of Sara Martinez Tucker, the values that have grounded her charity work and career, the foundational experiences that have contributed to her identity throughout her life journey, and the lessons that she has learned through the exploration of her heart’s desire.

To begin the event, Rev. Groody posed a question to Martinez Tucker about her foundational experiences, the experiences that led to the creation of the values she has ascribed to throughout her life. She identified three main values that were instilled in her and her siblings from a young age: education, self-reliance and hard work. She grew up in Laredo, Texas, a town with many living below the poverty line. Though her family also fell into this low-income demographic, her parents made sacrifices for her and her siblings to be provided with the opportunities to rise above their socioeconomic status. In her younger years, she worked often at the grocery store her parents owned and operated, instilling these values deeper into her identity and learning the value of hard work. She emphasized that the lessons she learned about showing initiative, doing your best, and working to overcome obstacles have served her throughout her personal and professional life.

The turning point for Martinez Tucker’s life was when she reached her 40’s. At this point in her life, she realized that her Hispanic culture was very important to her, as was economic development, the glass ceiling, and higher education. She realized that the work she was doing in corporate America was work that could be done by many others, but that the work she wanted to do was where her true passions lied. Though she had been very successful in her career, something was missing. After having this realization, she took a leap of faith and dedicated herself to helping others become more self-reliant through access to education and an opportunity to chase their dreams. She wanted to provide children that grew up in situations similar to herself to have the chance to pursue education that would allow them to be successful in the careers they were passionate about. She wanted to give minorities a voice in the policy room and work for change that allowed them to overcome their situations. Martinez Tucker was very successful in this line of work, serving multiple nonprofits and government agencies throughout her career. Yet, she remained humble throughout the conversation, giving the glory back to God and expressing emotion in light of the gratitude she feels for being able to pursue the work that she has.

The speakers then moved to address questions from participants. Martinez Tucker answered questions related to engagement of students with little motivation to take advantage of opportunities, how she approaches issues of diversity given her identity as a Hispanic woman, and advice for staying grounded in the courage to be more than a career. She also addressed failures that she has faced in her life and how they have taught her to see every experience as a learning opportunity. Though she worked in many jobs throughout her career, she saw each as an opportunity to explore something new. The session concluded with an introduction to the podcast which will be released in conjunction with the live events, and gratitude from both speakers to each other as well as participants.


View the discussion recorded on Wednesday, April 14, 2021, with Fr. Dan Groody and Sara Martinez Tucker.


Listen to the discussion wherever, whenever, on The ThinkND Podcast:


Register to participate in future discussions.

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