My father took a leap of faith when he left India to come to America. He left behind his young wife, three children, and everything he knew. He was willing to sacrifice who he was for what he was about to become. My father, a mechanical engineering student, studied hard, worked harder, and saved enough money to bring his family to join him one-by-one.
I was the last to arrive. It was February 1972, and I was 7 years old. I can still remember that snowy day, tucked away safely in my dad’s arms, as we stepped off the plane in New York City. I didn’t know it then, but America had just welcomed me home. It was my turn to give up who I had been for what I was to become—an American.
I learned English, attended public schools, and quickly adapted to my new world. When I was a senior in high school, my father faced a major health crisis and eventually lost his job. To put myself through college, I worked hard at a fast food restaurant. I applied for student loans, obtained Pell grants, and was proud to earn my degree as a civil engineer. I married my college sweetheart. He too is an engineer. We moved to Maryland, built a home, and together we raised three daughters – Meena, Chloe, and Sasha – and a few dogs.
I knew I wanted to give back to the country that has given me so much: As a working mom, I juggled raising a family, caring for aging parents, working full time, and chose a career in public service. I worked for 25 years as a Transportation Engineer for Montgomery County and other local governments.
In 2000, the Bush v. Gore election sparked my political interest, when I saw that the Supreme Court decided our country’s fate rather than “we the people.” I then realized that Democracy needed me. Not as a bystander or to cast a vote when there is an election — I needed to engage and empower others every day. I started to volunteer locally, which brought me face to face with the changing needs of our community.
In 2010, I ran for and was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates for the 15th Legislative District. As a State Delegate, I’ve seen first-hand what a big impact seemingly small legislative changes can have on people’s lives.
My past, present, and future have one purpose – to give the best of myself every day to champion the needs of others. I’ve drafted legislation to help people in their daily lives—not to check partisan boxes. I have continually supported a progressive agenda to help working families, women, children, seniors, and all those who believe they are forgotten.
I believe that the well-being of all families starts with a strong economy, which starts with a high-quality education and sustained investment in our public schools. I worked in partnership with academic and business leaders to invest in STEM education, streamline the regulatory process for small businesses, and bring 21st century jobs to Maryland. I believe that we must create a range of job opportunities from which all people can benefit.
My engineering background taught me to bring people together and combine innovation with common sense to solve complex problems. I worked to invest in our infrastructure so that people of all abilities have equitable access to their community and jobs. And based on my engineering oath to protect the earth, I worked to protect our environment; I believe that we must conserve and preserve the planet for future generations.
The United States of America has given me much: It accepted me as her own, provided me with the opportunity to get an education, have a fulfilling career solving problems in my community, raise a loving family, and represent the people of Maryland’s 15th Legislative District. I will never be able to personally thank the countless men and women who came before me and gave their lives to fight for our democracy, nor thank my dad who passed away in 1999. But, I can pay it forward and help create a better future for all of us.
I am Aruna Miller. This is my American story.