I know what it is to be poor. I know what a daily, seemingly impossible, and never-ending struggle it is to work oneself out of poverty.
In the 1950s when I was growing up in San Francisco I remember vividly that many days there was no more than a $1.25 to feed my two younger brothers, my parents, and myself.
Because of my brains and hard work, I was able to enter U.C. Berkeley as a freshman in 1956. I took 18 units in engineering from arguably one of the best universities in the world for the mere sum of $56. Even I could afford that. When I left Berkeley in 1967 with a Ph.D. in engineering, I paid only $200 per semester in tuition.
All during my college days, I was able to obtain federal loans to supplement the little I earned by working part time and summers. As soon as I got my Ph.D., I began teaching at a major university. Over a seven-year period, all of the money that I had borrowed from the federal government was forgiven. Essentially, I got a free education.
During my career, I have not only become a distinguished university professor, but I would like to believe that I gave back to society by being one of the founders of the field of crisis management. I have helped many organizations, public and private, to avoid major crises.
As a result of my education and hard work, I have become well-to-do beyond my wildest dreams. I live in a house and a part of the Bay Area that my parents and I never could have imagined. I am the American dream.
But I have never forgotten my roots for one moment. I cannot understand the attitude of those who want to lower taxes for the wealthy. I would gladly pay more taxes to help others get the same opportunities that I received.
I took the $56 that I paid in 1956 and I projected it forward to see what the inflation rate would have to be to equal the roughly $3,500 that is the current tuition at U.C. schools. It is 12%! That is, $56 would have to be compounded at an annual rate of 12% to equal the $3,500 of today.
We have to say as loudly and as forcefully as we can to the Governor and the legislature that we will not let them take away hope and opportunity from today’s kids.