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First Person

Cambodian-American Rady Mom’s House win makes history

The Lowell Democrat will be the first Cambodian-American state legislator in the nation.

Joanne Rathe/Globe staff/Globe Staff

This article is featured in the Nov. 9 issue of the Magazine.

I was born in Cambodia in 1970. My father back then, he was like the village chief who oversaw the whole province. He was a man who helped everybody. When the Khmer Rouge came for him, nobody would say where he was.

When I was 10 years old we were in a makeshift camp made up of refugees. The war was going on and off. A bomb hit one friend who was a good 50 feet from us and wiped out his entire family. My father told me to grab onto his shirttail. He told me, whatever happens don't let go. It was showering bullets left and right. Holding onto my father, it was like a force field.


We came to America in 1982. I spoke zero English. Before I went to college, I became a monk, to pay the greatest gratitude and respect to my parents. I was happy to spend time with my grandfather. He was a high priest at the Lowell Glory Buddhist Temple.

I'm an acupressure therapist. I've been helping clients on a one-to-one basis for over 23 years, whether [by treating] a physical ailment or a simple word that gives positivity in someone's life. The positivity is always in my thoughts. Nothing can happen until the mind believes--that seems to be my mantra.

I’ve been involved in our community over 25 years. I hosted the [Lowell Southeast Asian] Water Festival for 17 years. And my father was always looked up to. But I am a Cambodian-American who represents and works with all. I'm going to inspire the younger men and women of the entire community about how important education is, for them to step up and think differently. We've never been taught to think positively. I'm going to do that. Here's proof: A man who didn't speak a word of English and can do this.


MAKING IT OFFICIAL Mom, a Democrat, will represent the 18th Middlesex House District in January.

Interview has been edited and condensed.