Lourdes Markley with her daughter, Julia, at a StoryCorps booth in New York City.
Courtesy Julia Markley
Lourdes Markley in Seattle, circa 1963.
Lourdes Cereno Markley was born in the Philippines. As a young woman in the 1960s, she was determined to attend college in the United States. She recently talked with her daughter, Julia, about the bold move that made it happen.
Applying from the Philippines, Markley was accepted at Seattle University in Washington. But there was a problem with her student visa, and Markley became concerned that she would miss school — and that her dream of being a teacher might never come true.
So Markley turned to someone she had never met — but a person she knew could help: President John F. Kennedy. She sent a letter to the president and, within days, she was summoned to an office. Her visa problems suddenly vanished and she was on a plane for the United States the next day.
And arriving in the United States, it was up to her to make a life for herself. She did that, she says, by not listening to people who doubted her, who told her that she would never be a teacher in America.
She proved them all wrong, spending decades as an elementary school teacher in Portland, Ore., where she still teaches. And Markley's daughter, Julia, says she taught her own kids plenty, as well.
StoryCorps is the oral history project collecting stories around the nation, as friends and family members interview each other in a mobile recording booth. Copies of the conversations go to the Library of Congress — and excerpts are played on Morning Edition each Friday.