Thank you, graduates and Ohio University, for this opportunity. I am a 1983 graduate of Athens High School. Which means, yes, you invited a townie to give your graduation address. I grew up here watching you, the students, come and go. Perhaps that should make you wonder whether it was foolish to have asked a townie to speak. I’m not sure, after all, how much you want me telling your parents about what I saw as a teenager on Court Street on Halloween nights.
What I want to talk about, though, is the huge impression you, the students, and this university made upon me. My sister and I were born in New York City. Our family moved to Athens when the two of us still had our baby teeth. And among the enduring beliefs I absorbed growing up here is a core American idea: Anything is possible in people’s lives. No one should be counted out.
It might seem strange to have learned this in a small Appalachian town. Thirty-five percent of Athens County’s population lives in poverty, the worst in the state. Almost half of my classmates never made it to college. Yet everywhere around me was also evidence that ordinary people could have extraordinary strength and contain possibilities no one imagined—even themselves.
Much of the evidence was right in my home. My parents were immigrants from India and they had somehow found it in themselves to swim against the tides of rural deprivation (in the case of my father) and of restrictions and low expectations for girls (in the case of my mother) to become doctors, to find their way to New York, to meet one another there and marry against caste restrictions, and to ultimately become regarded as local leaders here. But our town and Ohio University provided the rest of the evidence. Читать далее