Oscar winner and recent Kennedy Center honoree Tom Hanks has voiced his full support in a NYT op-ed for President Obama's proposal to make two years of free community college available to all Americans. Hanks, who's a graduate of Oakland's Skyline High School, class of '74, says he had "lousy SAT scores" and generally poor grades and community college was his only option. He attended Chabot College in Hayward for two years at the time, it was free; now it costs $46 per unit for California residents, or $2760 for the 60 units required for an Associate's degree. And, he says, "That place made me what I am today."
He notes that Chabot students should check the library's vinyl record collection to see if they can find a recording of Jason Robards performing the monologues of Eugene O’Neill. "You will find my name repeatedly on the takeout slip," he says. Also, he calls out some of the fine teachers he had, who are long gone.
Classes I took at Chabot have rippled through my professional pond. I produced the HBO mini-series “John Adams” with an outline format I learned from a pipe-smoking historian, James Coovelis, whose lectures were riveting. Mary Lou Fitzgerald’s Studies in Shakespeare taught me how the five-act structures of “Richard III,” “The Tempest” and “Othello” focused their themes.
In Herb Kennedy’s Drama in Performance, I read plays like “The Hot L Baltimore” and “Desire Under the Elms,” then saw their productions. I got to see the plays he taught, through student rush tickets at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and the Berkeley Repertory Theater. Those plays filled my head with expanded dreams. I got an A.
In the end he transferred to Sacramento State, studied theater there for a year, and then went off auditioning, and the rest is history.
But Hanks's point is that "many lives will be changed" if Congress manages the unlikely feat of funding the President's plan. And, "High school graduates without the finances for a higher education can postpone taking on big loans and maybe luck into the class that will redefine their life’s work."