OPINION: Gina Ortiz Jones' American journey

Buddy Gomez -- Cyberbuddy

Posted at Feb 09 2018 10:30 PM

Gina Ortiz Jones. Photo courtesy of Ana Isabel photography, ginaortizjones.com

SAN ANTONIO, Texas--Youth, experience, hope sum up Gina Ortiz Jones. 

A first generation Fil-Am child of an immigrant mother from Pangasinan, running for a seat in Congress of the United States, representing a Texas District. First, a hurdle in the Democratic Party primaries on March 6. And winning it, the 2018 elections in November.

An inspiring, hardscrabble struggle and success story. An American story. That is how I would characterize Gina’s American journey, intimately knowing a hard life to surmount with pride and honor; and hard work with which to garner notable successes and accomplishments. She brings to the campaign an exciting personality with real-world exposure, exemplary education, outstanding professional experience. A sincere desire to serve. Ultimately, a character of determination, sound judgment and a fighting spirit.

Indeed, a colorful, attractive and impressive background for an effective political career, as aficionado odds-makers would rate a contender. Especially with the added value of an impressive endorsement from Emily’s List and a pick from TIME Magazine.

Emily’s List is a Political Action Committee (PAC), the nation’s most influential political action committee to elect pro-choice Democratic female candidates to office. A prominent political endorser. Emily’s List’s public statement in their endorsement runs thus: “Gina Ortiz Jones’ inspiring story is an American story. The daughter of an immigrant single mom who instilled the values of hard work and service, Gina pursued an education through an Air Force ROTC scholarship……..built a career as an economic and national security expert.”

Endorsements have also come from other national political action committees like the Asian American Action Fund, Aspire, Lesbian Political Power, Victory Fund, Equality PAC, Serve America, VotesVets.org., Women Under Forty and from a number of prominent Texas political personalities. 

I was a guest and witness to a multi-ethnic American crowd in a by-invitation-only meet ‘n greet/fund raiser at the Dominion Country Club which featured some Hollywood and Broadway talents Friday evening last week.

TIME Magazine’s January 29 cover featured an array of 48 faces of American women leaders named “the Avengers.” Each one of them either ran for public office last year or will be running in this year’s US elections. From them, TIME Mag picked out ten candidates as “….races to watch.” One of them is Gina Ortiz Jones.

Winning a four-year Air Force ROTC scholarship from San Antonio’s John Jay High School sent Gina to Boston University for her BA & MA in Economics and a BA in East Asian Studies. Joined the US Air Force as an intelligence officer, deployed to Iraq under the US Military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Active duty service was followed by a public service career in “national security, intelligence and defense” involving operations in Latin America and Africa. This included “advising on military operations supporting South Sudan’s independence referendum and serving in the Libyan Crisis Intelligence Unit. She also earned a graduate degree from the U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies.

Prior to her decision to seek public office, after her active military service, she also served as Senior Adviser for Trade Enforcement under an Obama Executive Order followed by a posting as Director for Investment, Office of the Trade Representative under the Office of the President in the White House, leading “the portfolio that reviewed foreign investments to ensure that they did not pose national security risks.

Let us hear it from Gina!

Her campaign theme is simple: Building a Better Texas!
Highlighting America’s immigrant antecedents, Gina adheres to and espouses ”the collective responsibility that the American dream remains a possibility for all who dare achieve it,” echoing pretty much her and her Mom’s experience. For truly, their lives express “the understanding that American exceptionalism is rooted in the opportunities we afford for the most vulnerable amongst us to become our most promising.”

Her focus encompasses quality healthcare, the creation of well-paying jobs and strengthening the middle-class.

As earlier pointed out, first she must hurdle the Democratic Party primaries. Winning it, she will face the Republican incumbent, Will Hurd, a mestizo African-American, two-time Congressman. The 23rd Congressional District of Texas has a strange geographic configuration, actually another anomalous gerrymandering that needs correction. Texas has 36 Congressional representations. The 23rd District encompasses the southwestern portion of San Antonio all the way to the eastern outskirts of El Paso. That is a distance of some 550 miles, a big slice of South Texas above the Rio Grande. Imagine, one Congressional district that runs from Baguio to Sorsogon! 
 
Pardon the digression but I am delighted to point out for Filipino enthusiasts of politics, (like all of us?), something to seriously ponder upon. A comparative reality. There are 435 Congressional Districts in the entire United States, each representing approximately 711,000 people. The Philippines has 297 Congressional Districts each representing an average of 350,000 people. If the number of our Congressmen were to follow the American example, we should only have 145! That is less than half of what we suffer from today. Decidedly, a useless political extravagance that is borne by the Filipino taxpayer!

A mother’s template for hard work and sacrifice

Gina's mother, Victorina 'Ising' Ortiz. Photo courtesy of ginaortizjones.com

Forty years ago, Gina’s mother, Victorina “Ising” Ortiz left hometown San Quintin, Pangasinan. She was responding to a rare employment opportunity to work as a domestic helper (substituting for a retiring relative) in a European Ambassador’s residence in Washington D.C. She had always believed in the unique promise of America and dreamed of opportunities never to be available to her in the country of her birth, especially for a Filipina reared in a pastoral, provincial environment. Although she already had a degree in Education from then-Pangasinan Normal School (now Pangasinan State University) and even an MA in Education from UP Diliman, she had faith and recognized that sacrifice and hard work would reward her with better life in America. Such educational attainment did finally become useful many years later, already as she struggled bringing up two Fil-Am girls as a single Mom. 

There was a time when she kept two jobs to afford some economic comfort and provide her two girls opportunities available only in America. They were brought up with the assistance of subsidized housing and discounted/reduced school lunches for years, even when ‘Ising’ finally found gainful use for her Philippine college education. She was accepted for a public school teaching position in Laredo, Texas (Rio Grande border town, 95% Hispanic) before transferring to San Antonio. Who knows, an Hispanic surname like Ortiz might have helped, too.

Active in the local Santo Nino de Cebu Parish in Rigsby, East San Antonio, Victorina Ortiz still teaches English and Science at the Harlandale High School, where she has been a teacher for the past 22 years.

The Gina Ortiz Jones life story may just embody the formula for winning Texas’ 23rd Congressional District, which is three-quarters urban and 70% Hispanic. It would be a source of great pride and honor for Filipinos around the world to see Gina make it to the US Congress.

I am encouraging my cyberspace friends to find time and browse through “ginaortizjones.com” and join this exciting endeavor.