Bob Menendez grew up the son of immigrants in a tenement building in Union City. A product of New Jersey's public schools and a graduate of the state's universities, he has served as a school board member, a mayor and a state legislator. Since 1992, he has been fighting for New Jersey families in Washington, where he rose to become the third-highest ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives before taking office in the Senate in 2006.
In Congress, he has fought to make health care more affordable for New Jersey's families and to improve schools so they prepare our children for a successful future. Now he is fighting to make college more affordable for the next generation of leaders. After September 11, 2001, Bob earned national recognition for his leadership in reforming the country's intelligence and public health systems and for fighting to establish an independent commission to investigate the terrorist attacks on our country. Today, he is working to improve the security of our bus, rail and public transit systems.
Elected by his colleagues in 2002 as the Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Bob Menendez became the highest-ranking Hispanic in Congressional history. He previously served as the Vice Chairman of the Democratic Caucus and has led key Task Forces on Education and Homeland Security. After being appointed by New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, Bob was sworn in to the Senate on January 18, 2006. In November of that year, New Jerseyans elected Bob to serve a full six-year term as United States Senator. He currently serves on the Senate Committees on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; Energy and Natural Resources; Budget; and Foreign Relations. Bob is also the Chairman of the Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, Economic Affairs, and International Environmental Protection.
Question: What should we be asking ourselves?
Robert Menendez: I really do think everybody should be asking themselves, “How do I make this world a better place?” And it doesn’t have to be the big things, although certainly the big things are great, too. And I think . . . As I’ve said before, I think sometimes ordinary people get asked to do extraordinary things, and they do. And the results are pretty big. But I think . . . I truly think that if we are all asking ourselves, “How is it that I make the world in which I live a better place?” and think about the collective power of everybody asking . . . not only asking themselves that question and thinking in that direction, but acting upon it, more powerful than all the money in the world; more powerful than all the armies in the world; the incredible output that can take place from that would be enormous, and they are in small and large ways. It might be I’m gonna make the life of one person so much better. Some child that we’ve mentored; somebody who doesn’t have a parent; a child that gets adopted. It might be, you know, some contribution of time to our church or synagogue. It might be some contribution of time to the public discourse. There is just such an infinite number of ways in which a person saying, “How do I make this world a better place for me, for those I love, and for collective humanity to be better off?” . . . that it’s unlimited potential with an unleashing of incredible positive power. And if we were all doing that and having a little bit . . . each one of us taking that opportunity to do something, then I think, you know, we’d be a much better world. And I think that’s something that people probably very often in the challenge of their daily lives don’t think about. And so . . . But I think there is enormous potential in each and every one of us to do something. And if we asked that question and acted upon it, the world would be a much better place.
Recorded on: 9/12/07