Roger Manno’s Story
I’ve been there, I get it.
I know what it’s like to worry about money, to carry student loan debt, to wait in an emergency room and on an unemployment line – all while feeling like no one in government is listening. When government fails to address real challenges of real people, something needs to change. That’s why I do what I do.
Here’s my story.
Like so many of us, when I was a child, tragedy struck – and we didn’t have health insurance. Our family had just moved from California, where my mother was a student and my dad was a carpenter, to New York. During a lapse in insurance, my father fell ill and lost his life. His death was preventable, but when he first had heart problems, we couldn’t pay for a good doctor to find out what was wrong.
Then I got sick. I was six years old. Drowning in medical debt from my father’s illness, my mother didn’t know where to turn. We were extremely blessed when a local cardiologist treated me without ever charging us. Through the years, I’m always reminded that I probably owe my life to a stranger’s act of kindness.
Those early years in New York City found me lost in a turbulent world filled with violence and uncertainty. By the age of 13, I had lived on the streets and spent time in a group home. And while so many of the kids I grew up with fell through the cracks, somehow I made it out. While I’ve had many angels in my life, I can credit my survival to a youth worker who took me under his wing, became my stepfather, and raised me as his son. My life continued to turn around when I met another angel – the love of my life and my wife, Marjorie. And I found solace in art – from music, to painting, to poetry and writing – a passion that continues to fulfill me today.
I also struggled, as many people do, to overcome a reading disorder that plagued my many attempts in school. But with a lot of hard work, I graduated from college with honors, and went on to graduate law school with a joint law and master’s degree.
My education opened doors that allowed me to pursue my life’s passion for reforming health care, labor laws, and policies that empower real people like my family. It’s what propelled me to work in Congress, to volunteer in my community – and it’s what blessed me to be elected to the Maryland House in 2006 and to the Maryland Senate in 2010 and 2014.
Looking back, I’m proud of the life that my wife and I have built. We had some difficult times, but we persevered, we love our community, and we love each other. It’s because of this life – the people I’ve seen hurt, the hard times and triumphs, and the challenges I overcame – that I fight so hard for people I represent. And it’s why I’ll never forget why I got into public service.