Updated: Dec 13, 2019
At only 33 years-old, Roger Garcia is an accomplished American. He is married to a beautiful wife, and together they have a beautiful daughter. He's working toward a doctorate and holds two master’s degrees, and he is a devout Christian that teaches bible study. He pays his bills and does everything he can to contribute to the greater good. I can’t help but imagine the full-chested pride his mother must feel when she thinks of him.
We all know it hasn’t been easy for Hispanics settling in Nebraska. Twenty-five years ago, Roger was one of only a handful of Hispanic children in his Schuyler grammar school. As a young boy growing up in rural Nebraska, he felt the sting of overt racism. It hurt, and it left a mark. But it did not keep him from becoming a man of glorious optimism or a benefit to his community and country he loves.
On the completion of his bachelor’s degree, Roger went right to work making the lives of other people better – a trait instilled in him by his courageous and hard-working mother. He began his career at Millard Public Schools, which soon led to new and ever-increasing responsibilities helping the Latino immigrant community in Nebraska and Iowa.
Regardless of how you feel about the question of immigration, you’ve got to appreciate the efforts of a man to make a difference in his community. He did not create the strife, but he’s doing everything he can to make it better for everyone.
Just some of the highlights of his service to the community include: Mentoring at the Boys & Girls Club; volunteering at the Open Door Mission; co-founding the Metro Young Latino Professional Association; serving on the board for the Women’s Center for Advancement; serving as president of both the Family Violence Council and the Nebraska Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. For his efforts, he was chosen as one of the 10 Outstanding Young Omahans for 2015.
For the past six years, he has served on the board of the Metropolitan Community College, became its chair and currently sits as the chair emeritus. Next, he has his sights set on becoming a Douglas County Commissioner. In any environment, he would be a wonderful addition.
But as strong and optimistic as he obviously is, a deep element of fear also resides within. As he relates the horror of the recent El Paso shooting, which left 22 Hispanics dead and 24 wounded, tears begin to form in his eyes. I wanted to reassure him that the white nationalist shooter was an extreme aberration, and that the overwhelming majority of Americans, even those who strongly opposed illegal immigration, find what he did abhorrent, but as I sat there, I realized that wasn’t the point. It was the thought of what his mother, wife, daughter and his community would do without him. There was no sense of arrogance, only the passion of someone who routinely puts himself between danger and those he loves.
There are people out there, even though very few, who are willing to target people for no other reason than they are Hispanic. There’s no question that the fight over illegal immigration has motivated this hate, but what all Americans must recognize is that, no matter which side of the debate you reside, there are real people in the middle. As human beings living in the United States, they deserve our compassion, and they deserve both political parties working together in good faith. If we can do that, we can compromise for the greater good, create a workable solution, revive our democracy and pass comprehensive immigration reform. Our nation would only be the better for it.