Monday, March 5, 2012

Astronaut Son of Migrant Workers Runs for Congress

From SF Gate:

Jose Hernandez announced his run for Congress last fall in California's new 10th District (Modesto, Tracy, Turlock) and it will be hard to top the Democrat’s personal story.

No current member of Congress can say they went from picking strawberries in the fields to becoming an astronaut.

Born in French Camp, the 49-year-old Hernandez was the child of Mexican immigrant farm workers, and toiled in the fields himself from ages 9-15. Woke up at 4 a.m. to pick cucumbers, strawberries, peaches, pears, grapes on the weekends, and did it seven days a week in the summer. He didn’t learn to speak English fully until he was 12.

At the end of the day, his dad, who had a third-grade education, would turn to him and his brother as they rode home, exhausted from the day’s work and say, “You guys have the distinct privilege of living your future now.”

At first, Hernandez didn’t understand what his dad was saying. Soon he did. His father was saying, if he didn’t go to school, his future was going to be picking cucumbers. Hernandez heeded his father’s warning.

He studied at the University of the Pacific and became an electrical engineer. He worked for 14 years for the Lawrence Livermore Lab and for NASA in Houston, where entered its astronaut training program. In 2009, he flew on the Space Shuttle Discovery’s mission to the international space station.

Several months ago, the father of five started thinking about running for Congress. What put him over the top: At last Fall’s Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Awards– where he was an honoree, President Obama encouraged him to run and Hernandez said the First Lady promised to come to the district to campaign for him. “And I’m going to hold her to it,” he told Hernandez. Read more..


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