Finds Success at Seward Park High
me when I say, that it seems both like yesterday and a lifetime
in the past. I’m sure the
graduates will think it was almost pre-historic times, but it was actually
a very exciting time—the Sixties. Forty years ago, in June of 1964
I became the first in my family to graduate from high school and four years
later in 1968, the first to graduate from college. My parents were very proud;
as I am sure your parents and families are today.
My family had come to New York
City in 1950. In 1949 my father left Puerto Rico seeking a better future
for our family and came to work as a migrant farm worker in Southern New
Jersey. He saved his money and in 1950 sent for my mother, my brother and
in the Lower East Side where millions of immigrants had settled before and
to this day continue to do so. I know that many of you can identify with
my experience. It isn’t
easy to arrive in a new place, especially if you speak another language.
There was no welcome party and unfortunately we encountered prejudice. In
spite of all these challenges I remember my years at Seward as being critical
to shaping the person I am today. The Sixties were a time of major social
upheaval. For the first time the war was televised and the sight of the body
bags spurred the anti-war movement to mobilize millions including a current
Presidential candidate; and in November 1963, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy
was assassinated. That day is clearly imprinted on my mind, as I am sure
9/11 is on yours. I remember how frightened I was because people said this
meant another World War and that probably the Russians were behind it. At
sixteen years of age the idea of another World War, after the atomic bomb
had been dropped on Japan, was very frightening. I imagine that is how all
of you felt after 9/11. You are coming of age in an extremely complex time.
They say New York is a world
city. The cultural, ethnic and racial diversity that is New York City is
very much at the heart of its unique spirit and rhythm. That was what I cherished
most about my growing up on the Lower East Side and attending Seward Park
Now you go off in different
directions: college, technical training, jobs. You must make the most of
what you have learned while at Seward and you must strive to be the best.
has been confronted by the temptations of drugs and gangs as was mine. Think
before you do anything that you have heard could be damaging. Do your part
to bring about a better world. That is the only way that it will happen.
As Mahatma Ghandi said—You
must be the change you wish to see in the world.#
Digna Sanchez is President,