Dr. Miguel A. Cardona, Nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education

Dr. Miguel A. Cardona
is a stocky, 45-year-old man
with short, dark hair
a white goatee
and horn-rimmed,
half-framed glasses.
He wears a wedding ring
a gold watch
with a brown leather band
and a pin-striped suit.

Dr. Cardona grew up
in a housing project
and on his first day
of Kindergarten,
at John Barry School,
when he knew no English.
he ended up crying
in the nurse’s office
and leaving school early.

His abuelo
was a tobacco farmer
in Puerto Rico
with a second grade education
who came here
for a better life.

Héctor, Dr. Cardona’s father,
with his dignified eyes
and handlebar mustache
was a police officer
in the Neighborhood Foot Patrol
of the projects,
and volunteered to speak
in high schools
about gangs and drugs
or the importance
of community service.

Cardona Sr. plays 
Puerto Rican music 
on the quatro
with his wife and son, Héctor Jr.
Sometimes, Dr. Cardona 
joins them on the bongos.

Dr. Cardona went to
an automotive studies program
at a technical high school
and, then, to get 
his teaching certificate
(being the first in his family to earn a college degree)
and become a 4th-grade teacher. 
At 28, he became
the state’s youngest principal.

Later, as assistant superintendent,
Dr. Cardona arranged
for new teachers
to tour the neighborhoods
of their students
half-million-dollar houses
and housing projects.

His doctoral dissertation,
Sharpening the Focus of Political Will 
to Address Achievement Disparities,
about the gaps
between English Learners
and their classmates,
was so powerful
it made people cry.

He reminds me
with his gentle eyes
and gelled hair
of the hundreds of 
little boys, I’ve taught
who have big warm smiles,
wear too much
of their father’s cologne,
and speak no English.
Little boys, 
whose parents
have so much
hope.



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