When I think of the journey I have been on, it is hard to believe my humble beginnings in a Thai refugee camp would take me down a path of unimaginable potential.
I have been with my partner for 24 years. In that time, we pulled ourselves out of poverty, raised three beautiful daughters, and supported two of them to become collegiate athletes. Through this process, we persevered the challenges and learned the commitment needed to achieve prosperity.
The kindness of the Catholic Charities of Iowa, which sponsored my family’s resettlement in America, instilled in me a deep sense of responsibility to my community.
Fifteen years ago, I was called to serve. I started as a grassroots organizer. I realized that to be heard and to make a difference required participation in civic engagement with my fellow neighbors. Since then, I have continued to volunteer, advocate, elect, endorse, and champion democratic candidates. In my leadership roles as an appointed state delegate and API Democrat President, I CHAmpioned the voices of BIPOC, LGBTQ+, women, and families.
My early education at Webster Magnet Elementary School in St. Paul, as a new refugee taught me the values of a well-rounded foundation. The supplemental education support provided by the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts gave me a sense of belonging and life skills that I still use every day. It laid the foundation for me to become a small business owner, rancher, farmer, public radio host, stay-at-home parent, golf coach, home school teacher, and father.
My childhood home, an apartment on the second floor of the Belmont Strip Club at the corner of Dale and University, motivated me to work hard. In 1996, we moved to Woodbury. With the birth of my first daughter, we started our family.
One of the greatest lessons I learned was from a stalwart figure in the St. Paul Rondo neighborhood. On my daily walk to and from school, I passed Tiger Jack and his candy shack on Dale street. Those days every penny found on the streets mattered. For only two cents, you could purchase a Now & Later. I came to understand much later that it wasn’t about the candy shack, the Now & Later, or the money.
I am inspired by the strength of my physically disabled niece, who is deaf and blind, loved ones suffering from mental health issues, friends and family adapting to what these past two years have disrupted, and remembering those who lost their lives due to Covid. They furnish me with the strength and optimism to build a better tomorrow that works for all of us.
As your legislator, I will take all of my learnings and fight for common-sense laws that will help build better and healthier communities.