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And it was his experiences with public servants – both in the U. and in Israel – that shaped his activism and his passion to improve his home in Tucson.Hernandez didn’t feel like a “hero.” As he explained to the , “I’m going to be real honest: I don’t like the word ‘hero.’ It’s hard to disagree with someone like the president, but I’m going to keep doing it.Daniel Hernandez receives a standing ovation at a memorial event dedicated to the victims of the Tucson shooting.First Lady Michelle Obama and Gabrielle Giffords’ husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, stand next to him.He is now the president of his local school board in Tucson, Arizona, on which he has served in various roles for four years.In late January of this year, he filed to run for the state House of Representatives as a Democrat.In 2007, Johns Hopkins University defined the district as one of the nation’s “dropout factories.” In his memoir , Hernandez listed the issues plaguing the district that motivated him to get involved in local politics: “I wanted to get involved and fix things.
“I’ve always known that I wanted to go into public service and I was inspired by people like Congresswoman Giffords,” he responded.
Hernandez is also something else: A fervent supporter of Israel.
After weeks of scheduling and rescheduling interviews, we finally met at 2016 AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC, perhaps the largest gathering of pro-Israel activists in the world.
In a conservative state that has traditionally enacted anti-gay and anti-immigrant legislation, Hernandez’s election as a gay, Latino, progressive Democrat was a welcome change – a sign that progress was possible in Arizona.
Listening to Hernandez gush about the city, it’s not hard to believe that this is true.
To his progressive peers, his pro-Israel beliefs have defined him a “neoconservative.” At the same time, to conservatives who are pro-Israel, Hernandez’s advocacy for gun control and reproductive rights mark him as a “lefty radical.” Hernandez jokes that no matter what he does, he can’t please everybody. “But I also believe in standing up for the right cause.” What may surprise you is how interconnected Hernandez’s advocacy for progressive causes is to his experiences with Israel.