Photo from: http://ufgau.org
If there is anyone I can think of who deserves to be in a hall of fame, it is my good friend Beto.
This is a congratulations to my amazing friend. The most fiery, zealous, compassionate and hard working activist I have ever met in my life.
I first saw Jose “Beto” Soto when he came to campaign for Dave and the Progress Party in a CHISPAS General Body Meeting. He walked in with a Graduate Assistants United (GAU) T-shirt and a big Mexican, wide-brim cowboy-looking hat.
He was very articulate, and he struck me as a person I wanted to hang out with. After that, I would run into him in Turlington campaigning, and he encouraged me to join the campaign since it stood for my principles. I would sit long hours talking to people, telling them to vote and raising awareness about issues and swinging my feet, as I sat, covered in Progress Party Stickers, perched up on the brick wall.
He introduced me to SDS, and I became an “undergraduate ambassador and recruiter,” you could say, for the GAU. I spent hours going from graduate assitant office to office raising awareness, making friends and helping members register. I went to rallies, protests, and I held signs for the first time in my life. I learned so much about the campus, met so many people and learned so much from the leaders and Beto, especially. These were some of the most exciting moments for me at the University of Florida, and I think this shaped me. I took the person I was, everything I was exposed to and surrounded by in my life, and these experiences showed me my voice. I learned to not be afraid. To grab a sign, to inform others of what they were entitled to, to fight for what I believe in and to stop traffic if necessary so a rally could cross (wink).
A lot of this fearlessness and passion I owe to the admiration I felt and still feel for Beto. Sometimes, we don’t know all that we can do and the power of one, unless someone shows us.
He is an incredible human being. Jose was always standing in the front. He was the most social person I met. Everyone knew him, and he treated each person as if they were the most important person there. When my car was at the shop, he drove me to the mechanic to get it. When a friend of ours got hurt, we walked to the hopsital to go see her in the Florida heat. This man is special.
He would have a megaphone and would courageously face administration, police or whomever he needed to face. He would call out lies, and demand justice. He spoke for international students, graduate assistants, citizens, non-citizens and even University departments.
One time, I was exiting the language lab, and I saw a group gathered in Turlington Plaza. As usual, there was a police officer or two and some administration observing (even though things never got out of hand), and I heard one say in a thick southern accent, “Yeah, that is Beto Soto.”
They knew who he was. Everyone did.
I want to congratulate Beto on Graduating with his PhD and for leaving UF a better place. Thank you for igniting a passion in us who had the privilege to work with you and who are privileged to call you our friend.
UF will not be the same without him, but more importantly, he has taught many of us to fight for ourselves and for others for that time when he is not around.
May we always fight for the same causes, despite the distance that may separate us. We are always united in heart, and who knows what the future holds!
Beto, is deserving of the hall of fame and more.
Congratulations Beto Soto. Keep spreading that fire.
May God bless you always, and may you always do the Lord’s work.
God is leading him to do big things; and he is not afraid, I know it. As he would always say, “We are doin’ it live.”
It is about loving people and knowing what you believe in.
Photo belongs to the Gainesville Sun.
University of Florida campus Tuesday, March 22, 2011. (Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun)
For more on Beto Soto (snippets from campus inetrviews and movements showing his involvement):