FAIRFIELD - The high school dropout who became a congressman from Northern California spoke Friday at the Solano Economic Development Corporation breakfast – and so did a former congresswoman from Nevada who said she often thinks of herself “as my grandparents’ American dream.”
The “Modest beginnings to national spotlight” event brought U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, and Shelley Berkley, a congressional representative from 1998-2013 in Nevada, who is now chief executive officer of Tour University Western Division, to talk about their youths.
Thompson’s 5th District includes part of Solano County.
Thompson said he dropped out of high school after the last basketball season, served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam, went to Napa Community College and received a bachelor’s degree from California State University, Chico.
He talked about growing up in a middle-class family in St. Helena.
“I thought I was in pretty tall cotton,” Thompson said at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield. Berkley, elected to Congress the same year as Thompson, said she is the granddaughter of immigrants who came to the United States to escape the Holocaust during World War II and arrived in America with no money or skills. All they had was a dream, Berkley said.
Her father took the family from upstate New York in the 1960s with plans to work in Southern California as a waiter, and stopped in Las Vegas for a night. “We never left,” Berkley said.
Fewer than 100,000 people lived then in Las Vegas Valley, which is now home to about 2 million residents.
Berkley spoke about her work as CEO and senior provost for Touro University Western Division.
“I visited Mare Island,” she said of the university campus in Vallejo. “I thought, this is the most extraordinary place on Earth.”
“We love what we do at Touro,” Berkley added about the campus in Solano County, one of 32 Touro facilities in the world, including others in Jerusalem, Berlin and Paris.
A total of 135 medical students are admitted yearly from 6,300 applicants, she said. Touro has pharmacy, nursing and education programs as well.
“We are creating professionals who are going to take care of all of you for a generation to come,” Berkley said.
Thompson spoke about the mix of industries in Benicia, the business home of Muscle Milk and where equipment for oil refineries is also manufactured.
The congressman said the most recent fiasco in Washington, D.C. is talk about shutting down the government to end funding for Planned Parenthood. “When you shut down the government everything comes to halt,” Thompson said.
Solano County, he said, receives about $1.4 billion yearly via the federal government – $770 million in Social Security, $370 million in Medicare and $200 million in veterans benefits.
Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.