In the midst of economic and political turmoil, it is difficult to imagine and embrace the fundamental values that we as Americans believe in; the things that make our country the greatest nation on earth. Sadly, these tough times have made far too many middle class families believe that the American Dream is far from reality.
But I can tell you it does exist. And I am living proof of it's incredible promise.
The son of migrant-farm workers, I was able to rise from the fields of California and touch the sky on the Space Shuttle Discovery as an Astronaut, a lifelong goal I was able to achieve thanks to the promise of the American Dream. Now retired, I feel it is my obligation to help others achieve the American Dream just like I did.
That's why today I am proud to officially launch my campaign for United States Congress in California's 10th Congressional District and am excited to finally be involved in the political process. But before we talk about that, I want to tell you a little more about who I am and why I care so much about preserving the American Dream...
When I was a boy, my family and I would make the journey from La Piedad de Cavadas in the central Mexican state of Michoacan to California every spring. We would work our way northward with the crops until November, when the harvest was over, then it was back to Mexico until the next March. It was never easy, but our parents insisted that my siblings and I always attend school.
Eventually, with hard work and encouragement from my parents and teachers, I found my way into a government program known as Upward Bound, a Federal Trio program that prepares underprivileged kids for college. While in college, I was involved in the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) program, an academic preparation program that provides support to students from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds so they can attain four-year degrees in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) fields.
Thanks to these programs, I earned a B.S. In Electrical Engineering from the University of the Pacific and an M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of California at Santa Barbara.
I was very proud of my accomplishments, but the dream of traveling into space, the dream that I first had as a 10 year-old boy in the field, was still pushing at me to strive further. But it was not easy to accomplish; many outstanding and well qualified people strive to become a part of NASA's Astronaut Program, so only a select few are admitted each year. In fact, I applied for 11 years to the astronaut program and 11 times I was not accepted.
But I had learned some lessons in the hot and dusty fields of California: never quit on your dream. Never.
On my 12th attempt, I was accepted into the astronaut program and, after more work and training, I earned a spot on the Space Shuttle Discovery STS 128 in August of 2009. My dream of flying into space had been realized.
I didn't achieve my dreams alone. I was lucky enough to have the support of loving parents and find a program that would help me earn a college education. It was through that program I came to understand the important role government has in fulfilling the American Dream for millions of underprivileged kids.
That's why I am running for Congress. I understand that we must start fighting for middle class families and protect vitally important programs like Upward Bound, Social Security and Medicare. I also understand that Congress must start focusing on creating good jobs if we're ever going to prove the American Dream stills exists.
But these days all we hear from Washington is how important it is to cut these programs so we can lower taxes for the wealthiest one percent. That's the kind of unacceptable mentality that exists among our elected leaders and it's just one of the many ways the American Dream is under attack. It's time we do something about that.
Sign-up to get involved in my campaign for U.S. Congress today and watch our introduction video here: http://joseforcongress.com/
I know that if we work together, we can finally start creating jobs and restore the American Dream for millions of middle class families who deserve the same opportunities I had. I hope that you will join me in this journey
Follow Jose Hernandez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/astro_jose