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JENNIFER LUDDEN, host:

On Friday, we bring you StoryCorps. This national oral history project is collecting interviews from everyday Americans about who they are and where they came from.

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 spoke with her daughter, Julia, about the bold move that made it happen.

Ms. LOURDES CERENO MARKLEY: I applied to Seattle University in Seattle, Washington, and having been accepted, there was a delay in my student visa. So, knowing the power of politics, I wrote President John F. Kennedy an aerogram letter - I'm sure it's in the archives - and asked him if he could help me go to America faster so I won't be late in school.

After four days or so, the American ambassador in Manila, Philippines, called me and told me to report right away. And on that day, the first question was, Did you write the president of the United States? And then I said, yes, did they write you back? And the American interviewer nodded and guess what? The next day I was flying to United States of America, and I credit John F. Kennedy for coming here. And since he's a Democrat, I decided to be Democrat ever since.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. JULIA MARKLEY: Can you tell me about one of the hardest times in your life.

Ms. CERENO MARKLEY: When I was at Seattle University, the dean of education told me that I will never be a teacher because of my accent, so I took some speech classes. I took advantage of American guys and asked them to correct me by reading a poem before I date. So, I did it. I'm a schoolteacher until now.

Ms. MARKLEY: Tell me about your first dates with my dad.

Ms. CERENO MARKLEY: Well, the Philippine culture is, you have to have chaperone when you go out dating, so my first date with Charles, I bring my cousin. He was 12 years old and Charlie said, I'll never date you again if you bring your cousin. He eats more pizza than I do. I have to pay for his drinks and movies. Well, guess what? I decided I'd like to go dating alone, so I did that. That was fun.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MARKLEY: You give advice to schoolchildren all the time and I was wondering if you have special advice for us, your children?

Ms. CERENO MARKLEY: Sure! If others can do it, why can't you? And believe in yourself.

Ms. MARKLEY: Well, Mom, I really have learned a lot from you and I love you.

Ms. CERENO MARKLEY: Thank you very much; I love you, too, and I'm proud of you.

Ms. JULIA MARKLEY: Thank you, Mom.

(Soundbite of music)

LUDDEN: Julia Markley with her mother, Lourdes Markley, from StoryCorps in New York City. These interviews are archived at the Library of Congress. Schedule your interview at npr.org.

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