While people might look at me and presume that I have a certain background or upbringing, the truth is my life is full of unexpected twists and turns.
Like so many Texans, my story begins with my family. My parents immigrated to the United States in the early 1970s. They both grew up in South Korea, a country torn apart by war. They also grew up poor, with my father suffering from extreme poverty after losing his mother at the age of 12. He was regularly turned away from school because he was not able to afford tuition and even as a young child, he worried about feeding his family. When he arrived in America, like so many proud, hardworking immigrants, he looked forward to building a future where he could raise himself up and achieve.
Throughout my own childhood, growing up in a small, rural town in California, I watched my parents work seven days a week, often 12 hours a day or more. I spent the first half of my childhood without health insurance. As a result, I didn’t go to regular pediatrician visits and had dental issues going into adulthood. I also knew that our family was different and we were one of a handful of Asian families in town, none of which were Korean.
On my first day of school, I remember being teased about the Korean food my mom packed into my Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox. Later that year, as a kindergartener, I was told that I couldn’t possibly be Korean, I was making it up, that there were only two countries that had slanty-eyed people – China and Japan. At night, I would toss and turn while I faced the reality of being treated as an "other" while I slept on used furniture with another child’s name written on the bed frame.
Our family’s first business was a plant nursery and landscaping business until it went under due to constant droughts but my father experienced some success with his second business renting VHS tapes (this was pre-Blockbuster). Even with his good fortune, my father never forgot what it was like to be food insecure. Once he was able to, he held an annual Korean feast for our entire town because he hated seeing people go hungry. We did that for several years and during our biggest event, we all sat in our tiny kitchen and prepared 800 pounds of Korean BBQ. The meat came frozen, so I helped my dad at the end of the day because his fingers were too cold and cramped to make coffee or write with a pen. It is my dad’s caring for others through food that inspired me to become a foodie myself. I take pride in making new dishes and won a noodle contest a few years ago. Food is my love language and I feed my friends and family copious amounts of food to show how much they mean to me.
In school, I fortunately did well despite bullying over my good grades, my not-cool clothes, and being different, and a few months after I turned 16 I left home and went to college as a biology major at the University of Southern California on a full-tuition scholarship. My parents had to work during move-in weekend, so I flew on a plane by myself for the first time with one suitcase filled with my belongings and that’s how I started my college experience. After obtaining my B.S. in biology, I went on to the University of Michigan to pursue a Master’s degree in biology. I then worked for a few years teaching elementary, middle, and high school earth science and chemistry before going back to school to obtain my law degree from Columbia University.
Throughout my educational career and afterward, I've pursued several of my dreams and learned from each of those journeys. From practicing patent law to running a handmade skincare business while raising two children to serving on the board of a domestic violence nonprofit, I've faced many challenges and emerged with an even stronger sense of self and a dedication to serving my community.
Not only am I a product of public schools, but my experiences as a teacher further strengthened my desire to see our schools fully supported by ensuring that we treat our staff with respect and do what’s right for our children. My children are public school kids and it is because of my firsthand understanding of the ways in which our schools struggle to fill in gaps that I helped my school by being PTA President and Treasurer and currently coach a team of third and fourth graders in Math Pentathlon. It is also why I will dedicate myself as the future Texas Land Commissioner to ensuring that our Permanent School Fund is fully funded by the General Land Office.
As a small business owner myself, I understand the needs of everyday folks who are trying to make ends meet doing something they love. It is because of this understanding that I served as president of a small business nonprofit and take special care in putting people first. I want to make sure that Texans that are affected by the policies of the General Land Office will not have to worry about their livelihoods being cut short and that they can continue to pay their mortgages, feed their families, and live with dignity and security.
Six years ago, my devotion to science and need to take action led to the formation of Immunize Texas, a grassroots, statewide, pro-vaccine advocacy group. As the founder and leader of the organization, I’ve organized Texans from all over the state and encouraged them to demand that our leaders listen to evidence, science, and reason.
As is so often the case, there is a complicated story underneath what you see on the surface. While in school, I frequently worked two, three, sometimes five jobs to make ends meet. My father was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer while I was working as a teacher and passed away shortly after I graduated from law school. I was sexually assaulted by a gynecologist at the student health center at USC and later suffered abuse in a few relationships. I’ve been judged for being a woman, or an Asian-American, or an Asian-American woman more times than I can count. I’ve been told that I’m too soft spoken, too aggressive, too talkative, too quiet, and so much more when all I’ve ever tried to do is be myself.
I share all of these parts of my life because I want Texans to understand that I’m running to be your Texas Land Commissioner as a real person. I have suffered, I have conquered, and I have survived and thrived. I am a proud Democrat because the Democratic party’s ideals are my ideals. I want every Texan to know that I see them for who they are and that I’m committed to working for them. My decision-making will be informed by evidence, common sense, and reason, and I will do what’s best for all Texans, no matter who they are or where they come from.
Together, all of us can proudly declare that we are not "others", we are people, we are Americans, we are Texans. I may not have a million dollars to invest in a campaign, family connections to high society, or a perfect life for everyone to envy, but I can promise that I’m filled with genuine passion and compassion and a long history of doing what is right over what is easy. I invite you to get to know me, Jinny Suh, and support me as your next Texas Land Commissioner.