From political unknown to powerful U.S. Senator
"A fascinating and thought-provoking political biography of Cuban-born senator Mel Martinez that critiques his successful pursuit of the American Dream. Foglesong has done a masterful job threading Mel’s life into larger political, historical, and social themes such as the rise of Hispanic power in the United States, the role of religion in political life, and the ongoing debate over immigration policy."--Aubrey Jewett, University of Central Florida
Mel Martinez, the United States’ first Cuban-American senator, came to Florida in 1962 as part of Operation Pedro Pan. His rags-to-riches climb through county, state, and national politics has the character of a storybook saga.
In this evenhanded, inspiring, and deeply satisfying biography, Richard Foglesong demonstrates that Martinez became a politician not from an ego-driven desire to exercise power and capture attention, but from a morally driven desire to return the favor for all that he and his family received from their adopted country. His personal story is here seamlessly tied to contemporary political, historical, and social forces, including the role of religion in politics, increasing Latino power, and the contemporary debate over immigration policy.
From counting chads to Terri Schiavo to the confirmation of America’s first Latino Supreme Court justice, Martinez has had a role in many recent political controversies. Foglesong explores that aspect of his character, his significance to the larger Latino voting population, and the reason behind his sudden resignation from office.
Drawing from Machiavelli, Foglesong describes Martinez as an "Immigrant Prince," a genuine leader who has escaped his own history and shown others the way forward. As a U.S. senator Martinez was respected in both parties for his forthrightness in addressing the problem of America’s undocumented workers and other issues affecting U.S. Latinos.
Richard E. Foglesong is the George and Harriet Cornell Professor of Politics at Rollins College and author of Married to the Mouse: Walt Disney World and Orlando.