The Democratic congresswoman from California is an attorney and a union member.
By NANCY TULLIS
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
BOARDMAN -- As a 14-year-old, Linda Sanchez worked part-time alongside her father in an industrial machine shop.
At the end of one work day, he told her to look at her hands -- still grimy with grease under her fingernails, even though she had thoroughly scrubbed -- and said, "If you don't go to college, that's what your hands will look like every day."
Growing up in a family of seven children of Mexican immigrants, Sanchez, now 37 and a member of Congress, said she and her siblings were taught the value of education and hard work.
U.S. Rep. Linda Sanchez was the keynote speaker Friday at the 34th anniversary fundraising dinner of OCCHA, Organizacion Civica y Cultural Hispana Americana Inc., at Mr. Anthony's Banquet Center.
She said seven children earned college degrees, and when the youngest started preschool, her mother went back to school. By then she was in her mid-40s and earned her high school diploma, then associate's and bachelor's degrees.
When her parents first came to the United States from Mexico, they settled in Orange, Calif., with little money, without the promise of a job, and without speaking any English.
"A true hero is someone who can raise seven children, then deal with 35 more of somebody else's children every day," Sanchez said of her mother, who became a teacher.
Sanchez recalls days when most of the children were at the kitchen table doing homework, and their mother was right there with them doing hers.
She said both parents taught the value of education, and that they must give back to the community.
Sanchez and her sister, Loretta, 46, have made history as the first women of any relation to serve in Congress at the same time. Both are current members of Congress representing California. Both are Democrats.
Linda Sanchez represents California's 39th Congressional District, and Loretta Sanchez the 47th.
Although she no longer has grease under her fingernails, Sanchez said she has never stopped working for the rights of working families like hers. She earned a bachelor's degree in Spanish literature with an emphasis on bilingual education from the University of California Berkeley, and a law degree from UCLA.
After earning her law degree, she worked for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Local 411 and the National Electrical Contractors Association. She is still a member of the IBEW Local 411 and was Orange County Central Labor Council AFL-CIO executive secretary-treasurer.
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, introduced Sanchez as a member of Congress who has made an impact in a short time by "giving a voice in Washington to people who don't have a voice," and by working hard for the rights of working people."
Sanchez told some 500 OCCHA members and guests she is happy to be "a living, breathing example of the American Dream," but stressed Latinos need to work hard to help people whose American Dream is slipping out of reach.
She said Ohio has born the brunt of Washington's failed economic policies. She said there are 200,000 manufacturing jobs lost, health-care costs increased 57 percent and family income declined 3,150 since President George W. Bush has been in the White House.
"I am counting on each of you to get involved, and encourage your friends, family and neighbors to vote," she said. "Our future is on the line. "
Sanchez said that although the Hispanic population in the United States continues to grow each year, there is low voter participation.
"What happens in elections matter and will matter to you," she said. "The American Dream is struggle, opportunity, sacrifice and hope. Without hope, communities die a slow death. Don't let your country down. Democracy depends on you."