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How best to serve Arizonans

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By Dr. Richard H. Carmona

I grew up in a poor Hispanic family in New York City. Our family struggled at times, experiencing homelessness, hunger and bleak prospects for economic and educational advancement. Yet, as a kid, I was happy.

 Because of our situation, I had to learn some tough early lessons about social injustices and economic disparities. Still, my abuelita emphasized culture and told us to always be proud of who we are. And even though she never spoke English a day in her life, I will never forget that it was my abuelita who told me that getting an education would set me free. Although I didn’t follow her advice right away – as usual – she was right.

 Like my brothers and sisters and many of my friends, I dropped out of high school, enlisted in the Army and went to Vietnam. I had few skills and little education, but I was determined to make it through. My military service instilled in me the discipline I needed. I completed my GED, became a member of the U.S. Army Special Forces and a combat-decorated medic. I also became the first member of my family to go to college – thanks to an open enrollment program at Bronx Community College reserved for returning veterans. I went on to earn my medical degree, awarded the prestigious gold-headed cane as the top graduate, from the University of California, San Francisco.

My story is one that I know could only happen in the United States. It is the kind of story Americans of all backgrounds have some understanding of, an experience and opportunity that generations of immigrants want for their children.

 I’ve lived the American dream. Yet, all these years later – after becoming a trauma surgeon, deputy sheriff and the 17th Surgeon General of the United States – I’m running for the U.S. Senate because I never forgot where I came from. 

I still see life from the eyes of a poor kid who grew up on the streets. My life experiences have given me a unique view of how culture, health, education and economic status shape our view of the world and the outlook for the future of our community. With economic disparities and social divisions becoming even more profound, I fear that our state and country have taken a step back in providing opportunities for education and social advancement.

 We face serious problems here in Arizona: our state’s public education system routinely ranks near the bottom; we are still in the midst of a foreclosure crisis; and the gap between rich and poor is only widening. But even with these major issues, we have seen over and over again that the so-called leaders of our state would rather spend their time scoring partisan political points than providing solutions that matter to people.

 Arizona is afflicted with the same political paralysis that career politicians have created in Washington. There is neither the will nor ability to solve the serious problems we face. I’m tired of the partisan bickering that is beneath the dignity of the offices these politicians hold. We deserve lawmakers who want to solve problems, not create more. We deserve to make headlines for the right reasons.

 The politicians in Washington and at the state capitol have lost sight of what they were elected to do. It is clear they are disconnected from the priorities of the people they were sent to represent. They don’t care about the struggles of everyday Arizonans and, because of this, they don’t have any interest in finding solutions.

 I don’t look at things like a politician – I see them as a veteran, a doctor, a deputy sheriff and a businessman. The health and future of our state and nation is on the line, and the career politicians who created this mess won’t be the ones to clean it up. I am running for the U.S. Senate to be a problem solver, because I believe what is  best about our country is what will help move us forward.

 In one generation, I was able to go from a homeless child of parents who emigrated to this country to Surgeon General of the United States. I want to ensure an even brighter future for our next generation. I want to rebuild America’s infrastructure of opportunity – and that’s what I intend to do in office.  

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