2012 SCI Luncheon Remarks by Bob Giannino-Racine
I want to begin my remarks by thanking everyone that has come out to support me today. This truly is a very, very special day for me and I can't begin to tell you how much it means to me to be surrounded by so many people who I admire, respect and love. Thank you for lifting me up today and always and I hope that I can return your generosity and support many times over. There's so many of you that I want to thank individually or in groups, but I'm afraid that I'd either miss someone or some group or not do any of you justice. So, with your permission, I'd like to just give you all one big collective hug and share with you my deep, deep gratitude, appreciation and love for everything that you've done - and that you'll continue to do - to support me.
I am here today because of a significant presence of social capital in my life. When I was a six-year old first grader, I was hit by a speeding car in my Winter Hill, Somerville, Neighborhood, and thrown nearly 20 feet through the air, suffering a number of serious injuries. But, a strong foundation of social capital in my neighborhood enabled a quick response to the hit-and-run incident, the swift notification of my family and, following that, a holistic embrace by everyone around me to ensure that I recovered quickly and that I, and every child in my neighborhood, felt safe and secure.
It was a well knitted network of support - from family friends, to neighbors, to teachers, to siblings - that were a part of assisting my incredibly hard working parents with keeping me safe, sound, nurtured and on track in my earliest years. I was lucky to have such a tremendous community loving and caring for me. I was never alone, never felt neglected, never questioned that I was loved. That early community, rich in social capital, was the village that helped raise me.
It was a community of people who believed in me, encouraged me and pushed me to excel in school and stretch to reach goals that alone I would never have been able to achieve. Some of you are in this room today and some of you are not. But, their spirit lives on in me and the things I've chosen to do in my life. I can't reflect back on the strong social capital in my life, and the people that have helped make me who I am today, and not think of my friend and mentor, Jeff Coolidge. Jeff gave me my first job as an intern when I was a student at Somerville high school, he challenged me to think big and dream bigger. Jeff showed me and others how to live a life of great purpose, why building community matters; Jeff's guiding light continues to shine the path that I walk each day.
Jeff was the one who challenged me, the first in my family to attend college, to consider applying to Harvard. I thought he was crazy - the closest any member of my family had ever gotten to Harvard was having an aunt who cleaned undergraduate dormitories. But, a recipe made up of Jeff's encouragement, my desire to repay him for the chances he gave me, and the rare questionable decision by Harvard's Dean of Admissions, Bill Fitzsimmons, who I am thrilled and honored is here today, to admit me into the class of 1994 has propelled me into a life of great possibility and potential. And so, each and every day since, I have worked hard to make sure that the opportunity afforded me is not squandered and that the potential is realized.
My college education, and the presence of strong social capital in my life that results from it, was an amazing gift. And it is something that I deeply believe should be an opportunity made available to every young person, regardless of zip code or family experience - if that makes me a snob, then so be it. But, it's that belief that fuels my passion and drive for the work of ACCESS. I am living proof that a college degree can change someone's life and the life of those around them. So, in 7 short years, I've had the honor to work with an incredibly talented staff, and a deeply committed board, to ensure that more and more of our nation's young people find a pathway to the thriving, fulfilling life they deserve. Over that time, ACCESS has grown from a local program doing important work with a modest number of families in Boston, to an organization that this year will serve 4,000 12th graders across Massachusetts, and over the coming years will have impact in Miami, Philadelphia, New York, Silicon Valley, and many communities in between.
While not the only way, creating clear, seamless and affordable pathways to a postsecondary degree is one inarguable way to building greater social capital and connectivity in our communities and we all must come together to make high quality educational opportunities less of an exception and more of a rule for ALL young people. We can not allow finances, or any other obstacle, to impede the aspirations of young people and families who seek a better path, who yearn for a life free from poverty and full of opportunity and I intend to work with all of my colleagues and all of you to see that commitment through.
Before I finish, there are two people, here with me today, who I need to call out and recognize for their amazing accomplishments and the role that they've played in making me the man that I am today. First, I want to thank my big sister, Marie. There are so many stories over our lives where you put my interest ahead of yours, where you shielded me, where you sacrificed for me and I want you to know that I haven't missed it. You are such an amazing friend and even more amazing mother and I want you to know how lucky I think my nieces are to have you as a mom.
And finally, my mother. My mother is my hero. She has worked so, so hard to give me everything she could and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't try to make her proud. But, Mom, I want you to know that it's me who's proud. I'm proud to be your son and I'm so proud that you're here today to see, first hand, the fruits of your labor these last 40 years. Thank you and I love you.
Thank you all again for being here and to Social Capital for having me here. I am a very lucky guy.