New York, NY – Assemblymember Eddie Gibbs joined The Doe Fund at the Apollo Theater to celebrate the graduation of over 200 participants in the Ready, Willing, & Able Program. The graduates overcame struggles including homelessness and incarceration to achieve employment, permanent housing, lasting sobriety, and professional education. Below is the transcript of his remarks:
“Good morning! My name is Eddie Gibbs, and I represent East Harlem in the New York State Assembly.
I would like to begin by congratulating you all for your success in the Ready, Willing & Able program. This moment is the beginning of something fresh in your lives. And I’m going to ask that all graduates please for the next two, three minutes [attentively] pay attention. This is very important.
I could say this is your second chance, but the term “second chance” is a little misleading. None of you ended up here today as graduates purely by chance, in the same way that you flip a coin or play the lottery. Winning the lottery is rare, but it is easy. What you are doing today is both rare and difficult, because not everyone is able to put in the work like you did to turn their lives around. Achieving employment, permanent housing, professional education, and lasting sobriety – those are no easy feats. But you did it and you are here.
Graduates, never in the future should you doubt your potential. I’m going to say that again: never in the future should you doubt your potential, because your accomplishments should prove to you that anything is possible. Your second chances were not just by chance.
Like for many of you, life was tough growing up. My brothers and I took to the streets, selling drugs and getting involved with the wrong crowd. I was then incarcerated at 17 years old, in the same position as many of you were years ago. But when I went to prison, I knew it was time to change.
I turned my life around and decided to spend it in service of my community. This year, I made history. I became the first formerly incarcerated member of the New York State Legislature.
Like all of you, I worked hard for my second chance. I worked damned hard for my second chance. Look where mine led me: to the Assembly Chamber in Albany. Who knows where your dedication to your second chances will lead you? Fellas, your journey starts now.
Believe. If I had a word to tell you, I’d just tell you all to believe. You can do anything y’all want. And while you’re at it, come back to Albany and turn my furniture upside down. Y’all killed my office when you were there, Robert Cornegy.
Gentlemen, I’m proud of you guys seeing you sit there in your caps and gowns. I didn’t have an opportunity to wear a cap and gown. I received my GED in prison. I received my associate degree in business administration in prison. I never had an opportunity to wear a cap and gown. But I always knew inside of me that I would come home and do something great for myself.
Your friends are going to tell you don’t bother. Your girlfriend’s probably going to question it. Hold onto G-d and your family. Stay focused and believe the unbelievable. [...] I need y’all to be [enthusiastic], energetic, and I need y’all to excel and come join me in the Assembly. Come and join Robert down there in the City Council. If you don’t want to do politics, go to the private sector. Whatever you do, believe you can do it. Show them that human element of you. They need to see it. Gentlemen, your journey starts now.
So, I would like to thank The Doe Fund for having me today to celebrate this milestone in the lives of all of today’s graduates, and for the vital support their incredible team provides. Their contributions have a profound impact on our communities.
So again, my most sincere congratulations to all of today’s graduates. You all are on the right track to do great things in service of yourselves, your families, and your neighborhoods. And remember, y’all did that yourselves, not just by chance. Thank you.”