President Mellow, distinguished faculty, friends, family, and the Graduating Class of 2013.
It is a great honor for me to share in your accomplishment and pride today. But I must admit that I approached this address with some trepidation. I suppose that more commencement speeches have been delivered more seriously, listened to more attentively, and forgotten more promptly than any other form of human communication.
So I will try to be brief and practical. My advice is grounded in my own experience. And my own experience, in many respects, is not that different from many of yours.
I grew up with the idea that college was more an aspiration than an expectation. I saw my parents struggle most of their lives and the daily battle to keep afloat sometimes even drained what hopes and dreams they had for me. They didn't go to college and neither did my only, older sibling.
My father sorted mail for the post office. He worked nights because it paid 10% more than a day shift. My mother was a receptionist at a burglar alarm company — one of the few growth industries in our neighborhood. I grew up in the Linden Houses, which, as some of you know, is a housing project in East New York.
It was and is a tough neighborhood, though it produced some accomplished people who, despite or because of their background, did well. I attended Thomas Jefferson high school, which has since shut down as a high school and operates different training programs for various skills. Up until high school, I shared a small apartment with my extended family, which included my grandmother, my sister and my neph