Tina Maharath

Senator Tina Maharath is the first Asian-American woman elected to the Ohio Senate where she serves as the Minority Whip.

Imagine this: Your parents were refugees from Vietnam in the 80s because of the Vietnam War. Your parents own a Banh Mi (Vietnamese Sandwich) shop in Washington DC’s Chinatown where you grew up in public housing with your parents and 3 other siblings in this two-bedroom one bathroom apartment together. They did not get you out of public housing until they opened this shop because finally, they had disposable income! You have been conditioned your whole life to make it as a doctor or else you have failed your family. So, you worked your butt off your entire life to go to college even though you cannot really afford it. Got into Georgetown but chose to go to University of Maryland and commute from the DC area since you lived with your parents and could not afford to pay for room and board. You got full ride and then some because your story is so compelling, and your family is so dirt poor that rich people who needed to make themselves feel better about themselves used you as a charity case to pay for your schooling. You got your undergraduate and now it is time for medical School where you REALLY cannot afford it but get an offer that you could not resist from THE Ohio State University because despite your income level, they believed in you and your American Dream and found you to be a good fit for their medical school where there’s talented candidates attending from all over the country.

You have just moved to Columbus, Ohio from Washington DC. You left all the sumptuous cherry blossom trees and access to just about anything on Capitol Hill through their public transit system to come to THE Ohio State University’s finest medical school in the Midwest. You do not really have time to work so you take a minimum wage job just to get by because you have no generational wealth. What you see is what you get here. Although you were born in the United States, you are practically raised as an immigrant since your parents’ culture, customs, and language has not transitioned to the American culture yet when you were growing up. Matter of fact, they opened the shop after they learned enough English to get by because they were tired of working at the factory as a non-union member where the factory often cheated them of their worker’s rights. The factory only hired your parents because they wanted to save money from not hiring someone who was a member of the union and knew enough English to fight for their rights.

So, you are going to be keeping your head stuck in medical books for the next four years of your life at this school far away from home. You are going to need to come home and have a good, nice bowl of homemade Pho (Vietnamese Rice noodle soup) from your mom every now and then to keep you sane through med school but how are you going to make that visit happen? You do not own a car or Driver’s License. You have lived in Washington DC your entire life where a car or a license is not really needed. You are too poor to fly and too prideful to ask your parents to buy you that direct flight to DCA airport through American Airlines. You could possibly take the Greyhound, but the drivers take long rest stops and adds onto your travel time when you would rather cut the time to hurry home as fast as you possibly can. And Ohio does not have an Amtrak in Columbus.

This scenario is a very common and real-life scenario that happens to thousands of young people while living in Ohio. Ohio needs the American Jobs Plan. Columbus needs Amtrak. Amtrak has made these social connections happen for decades. These types of investments will also reduce the impacts of climate change for our kids, and make sure fewer families mourn the loss of a loved one to road crashes.

Do you want to know what happens to our young people after they leave great universities such as THE Ohio State University? They leave to another state who has a more modernized public transit system, better infrastructure, and less systemic racism that creates larger inequality gaps for them. We need this passed.