Harry Reid on Searchlight and a Hardscrabble Upbringing

Question: To what do you credit your journey out of Searchlight, NV?

Harry Reid: First of all, I had some wonderful teachers, mentors. In elementary school I had a woman by the name of Mrs. Pickert, who taught me how to read and loved to read. I’ve been a reader ever since then. In high school, I also had some wonderful mentors--a government teacher by the name of O’Callahan, who taught me how to fight, box. He and I served as governor and lieutenant governor together. We ran independently, but we certainly worked as a team. Mr. Walker, who was a Spanish teacher. People were very good to me. One of the things I’ve tried to do in public life is to try to make it so that Harry Reids of the future can succeed. America is a wonderful country. I tell young people that I visit with that if I can make it, anyone can. That’s what I want to be able to explain to people and I try to do in this book. No excuses. We can all make it. The only thing I worked toward is trying to have it so that there are fewer hoops to jump through. I think I had to jump through some hoops that maybe they shouldn’t have to jump through.

Question: Would it be harder for someone today to replicate your journey?

Harry Reid: I don’t want to say, “poor me,” but things are a little better than they used to be. Even from Searchlight, they have buses that take kids to school in Boulder City. I didn’t have that luxury. I wanted to go to high school. I figured out a way to get there myself. Much of the time, I hitchhiked back and forth. Health care was really awful in those days. It’s not great now, but at least you can go to the doctor when you’re sick. We couldn’t do that. Education is better. Searchlight doesn’t have one teacher teaching all eight grades. We still don’t have many kids going to school there, but we have a team of teachers. Things are better than they used to be, but they’re not as good as they should be.

The Nevada senator on his hardscrabble upbringing.

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