Calling all dads to action! (Moms, too!)

When you think about it, children give us a lot. The moment when I saw my daughter enter this world is the happiest moment of my life. As a dad, I feel that her first steps were the single greatest achievement in this history of mankind. But the most valuable thing children give us is hope — hope that, tomorrow, a new generation will bring its energy, ingenuity, and conscience to bear in solving the problems that seem intractable to us today.

matilda-and-daddy

In return, dads (and all parents) have important duties to fulfill. Besides lots of love, there are the foundational things:

  • a warm bed to sleep in;
  • enough healthy food to eat;
  • a safe neighborhood; and
  • a good school in which to learn.

And then there are the extras, where parental style can be factored in. For example, in my family there is an emphasis on:

  • warm hugs;
  • high-fives;
  • singing in the car; and
  • kissing owies.

If we do our jobs right, our children will develop a sense of belonging and ownership in our families and society.

Our children are fulfilling their end of the bargain. How are the grown-ups doing? I regret to say, as a society we are not doing well. Too many kids don’t have a warm bed to sleep in, enough food to eat, a safe neighborhood to live in, or a good school in which to learn. Too many kids have parents in prison. Our society treats some kids like second-class citizens or worse.

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No self-respecting Mexican eats store-bought flower tortillas

Everyone needs a hero. Mine is my mother. Mom was born in 1947 in a village on the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico. I went there in the 1980s. The houses were still made of mud and had dirt floors. Few had electricity, forget about indoor plumbing. When mom was little, her bathtub was the river.

Mom’s paternal grandfather was from Scotland. How or why he ended up in the Sierra Madre, no one knows. Over the years, the surname “McDonald” was Mexican-ized, eventually morphing into “Maydón,” which no one heard of before. The Maydóns have been taking over the world ever since; it’s now the 150,436th most common surname in America.

Some people worry about moving to a neighborhood with good schools. My mom’s family had a more fundamental problem: Baby Emita had no shoes, and the school wouldn’t let her in without them. My uncle came to the rescue. He was old enough to have a job and used some of his hard-earned money to buy mom a pair of shoes. And so mom got to go to school.

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The titles “It Takes a Village” and “Pay it Forward” were both taken

The summer between my sixth and seventh grade years, dad lost his job. My whole life, he had been a laborer on a small farm. When his boss retired and folded up the business, dad had to look for new employment. Dad didn’t know any English and didn’t have a lot of jobs from which to choose. He was a farmworker, through and through, and proud to be. He and my mom had three kids at home and one in college. Unemployment was never an option. Our family had a fledgling farm, consisting of about half an acre of unirrigated land borrowed from my dad’s friend. Half an acre wasn’t going to pay the bills. One of the hardest working people I’ve ever known, dad decided to go up north to Louisiana — that’s considered north in my home town — to work in a gin for cotton season. We all said no, but dad went anyway.

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Heart + Intellect + Drive

Hey, let’s put politics aside while I tell you about my sister, Emmy Ruiz.

Eight years ago, I went down to Texas to drive Emmy from our home town of La Feria to Las Vegas, Nevada. She had recently graduated from college and accepted her first job as a field organizer. Emmy was really scared. I mean really, really scared. I know she thought about turning back. But she wanted to make a difference and believed in the candidate she had chosen to support, Hillary Clinton.

That trip from La Feria to Las Vegas was a trip of a lifetime, and our mom came along. When we got close to Las Vegas, we decided to take a detour to Los Angeles, and we went to Disneyland for the first time. It’s kind of crazy because I was 31 years old, but we cried when we got to the gate. Having grown up in a struggling family in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, we always dreamed of making it to Disneyland, but it wasn’t in the cards for us as kids.

When Emmy arrived in Las Vegas, she started at the entry level position on the campaign. Stuffing envelopes, making phone calls, and canvassing neighborhoods, that kind of stuff. Every once in a while, I’d fly down and visit, and I saw my sister in a different light from before. It was a rare combination of heart, intellect, and drive. My sister had always been a force to be reckoned with—seemingly able to bend any situation or person to her will—but now I saw that that her force had maturity and purpose. She started getting small promotion after small promotion.

Skip ahead eight years. My sister was just announced as one of the first leaders of the Hillary for America campaign. She has gone from an entry level position on the Nevada campaign to the top. She’s the State Director of Nevada.

Here’s what you need to know about my sister: She’s in this because she’s a believer in America and in democracy. She gets a huge thrill from every person she helps register to vote. She supports Hillary because she wants to help other poor kids achieve as much as she has and hopefully more. In politics, she’s one of the good guys.