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Jeff Bezos, the man who is worth $152.6 billion, wasn’t always blessed and he certainly wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. As it turns out, the richest man in the world was actually born the son of a single teen mom who once couldn’t afford a telephone.
Earlier this week, the Amazon CEO took to his Twitter to give his inspiring mother Jacklyn Bezos a shout out after she gave the commencement address at Cambridge College. Along with a video of the speech, the proud Bezos tweeted, “My mom’s incredible story. Wow. So grateful. So proud.”
In the address, Jacklyn addressed giving birth to her now-famous son, but was barely 17 and a junior in high school.
Jacklyn explained that the school administrators said she couldn’t come back to school but she didn’t take “no” for an answer. “It didn’t make any sense to me, so I pushed back and I kept on pushing back,” said Jacklyn. “And eventually the school relented, they would allow me to come back to school but there would be conditions.”
She continued, “Condition one, I had to arrive and depart school within five minutes of the starting and finishing bells. Condition two, I could not talk to other students. Condition three, I couldn’t eat lunch in the cafeteria. Condition four, I was told I would not be allowed to walk across the stage with my classmates to get my diploma.”
She says she divorced Jeff’s father and eventually got a job typing. “Even though I was a terrible typist and couldn’t read my own shorthand, somebody actually hired me” she says, explaining she was paid $190 per month, a far cry from the amount her son is making monthly nowadays.
Jacklyn eventually moved into an apartment with her young son, but she had no almost no money and couldn’t even afford a phone. If she wanted to speak to her parents she used a walkie-talkie.
“That’s how we were able to stay in an apartment … because I didn’t have to pay for a phone,” Jacklyn.
Jacklyn wanted to keep learning so she eventually enrolled in night school. She says she picked her classes solely based on which professor would allow her to the baby future billionaire with her to class with her.
“I would show up with an infant and two duffel bags,” Jacklyn said. “One full of my text books and the other full of diapers— cloth diapers, bottles…And the second duffel bag would have items that might keep Jeff interested for a few minutes.”
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In one of those classes she met her future husband, Mike Bezos, a Cuban refugee. Jeff refers to Mike as his father. Eventually the young family had to move for Mike’s new job and Jacklyn was unable to finish college, putting her scholastic dreams on hold.
Eventually, Jacklyn did go back to college.
“Finally, after delays and setbacks, I feasted at the table of higher education. And boy did I feast. I was relentless. I devoured my classes,” she explained.
“When I graduated from the college of Saints Elizabeth at the age of 40, I had never been more proud of myself. I felt 10 feet tall. Now that’s a gain of 5 feet. So. That’s a pretty big gain from graduation.”
Meanwhile, Bezos just went through a high-profile divorce with ex-wife MacKenzie Bezos, whose settlement gave her $35.6 billion in Amazon stock, which makes her the fourth-richest woman in the world, based on Bloomberg’s rankings of the world’s richest people, behind L’Oreal heiress Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, Wal-Mart’s Alice Walton and Mars Inc. co-owner Jacqueline Mars.