What if I told you that a future California Assemblymen could very well be a student in one of your classes this fall? If you haven’t heard the name Nathaniel Tsai on campus or during the summer, you soon will. As of April 9, Nathan became an official write-in candidate for California’s State Assembly in the 41st District. On June 3, Nathan finished yet another chapter in this journey, as he became California’s youngest state nominee for State Assembly. Now Nathan has a chance to become the youngest candidate to win a state election in the entire nation later this November. Nathan’s campaign has been progressively expanding throughout the summer as he prepares for the battle he will be facing later this fall. I had the opportunity to interview Nathan to get a better sense of who he is and to learn more about his campaign. Acknowledging the importance of the 5C community and its role in creating future leaders, Nathan was more than pleased to take some time to talk me about his journey.
Nathan was born in Glendale, CA, and was raised in Alhambra before moving to San Marino, where he graduated from San Marino High School. Nathan is currently a sophomore at Claremont McKenna, where he is majoring in Government. He is a swimmer for the CMS Swim and Dive team, an active member of the Claremont College Republicans, and a cadet in CMC’s ROTC program.
Nathan described the significance of being a part of CMC’s ROTC program: “Being raised in a family where my grandfather served in WWII, military service is something I hold close and have a deep respect for.” I immediately felt the deep respect he had for those who served our country, and I was amazed to see how Nathan was so willing to carry on the torch. After completing his eight years of service, Nathan plans on looking into law school for his future career path. Commitment is something Nathan prides himself on, which he has exemplified through his continued participation in organizations like Boy Scouts of America and The American Legion. When he has free time, playing pool, hanging out with friends, and trying to play the piano are a few of his hobbies. Nathan emphasized how he wants people to get to know him for who he is, “not some politician in a suit, but rather a representative of the people.”
During our interview, it became apparent how much Nathan valued the importance of representation. As he puts it, “I’m not attracted to politics, but rather I’m attracted to serving the interests of my constituents.” Following this ideal, Nathan wanted me to know how this whole campaign did not start because of his love of politics, but rather “the opportunity to serve the true interests of his constituents.” He spoke about how “service above self ” is an important principle he lives by, and that political office is an outlet where he could personify this principle on a grand scale. After becoming aware of the current issues Sacramento has been tackling, Nathan took the phrase “be the change you want to see in the world” to heart and decided to take matters into his own hands. Only by doing so does he believe “California will be able to move forward knowing the citizens actually paved the way.”
One of Nathan’s goals that is embedded into his platform is to bring our state politics down to a level of direct representation, where everyone can play a role in shaping their own future. Ultimately, he wants people to realize that “their voices really do matter and to under- stand the importance of their votes.”
At the end of our interview, one question still remained: Why start this campaign now? Nathan gave me two reasons. First, his involvement in ROTC would make it impossible for him to wait until after graduation to run because he would have at least another four years of service ahead of him. Second, Nathan explained how he “wanted to make an impact on our generation now.” Essentially, had he decided to run later, his involvement in state politics on issues like higher education would only have an effect on future generations, and not his own. Nathan plans on having a significant role in today’s politics, while establishing a new mentality for other ambitious minds to adopt.
Although his campaign is still working on major policy decisions, Nathan provided me with some key issues that he believes need attention. Education is an issue he believes is in need of serious reform, “especially when taking into account the downward path of California’s public education system the past decade.” Having attended public institutions himself, Nathan was able to witness first-hand the many problems with our schools, including overcrowded classrooms and a lack of appropriate funding. Another topic Nathan wants to focus on is transportation, “specifically in the public sector.” Nathan realizes that future transportation projects could lead to more job opportunities for citizens of California. At the same time, he also wants to put an end to the rising concern of over-crowded freeways that everyone can attest to. Public safety is another issue Nathan is adamant about, asserting that, “safety is something people shouldn’t have to think twice about.” Lastly, Nathan wants to tackle the apparent water and energy crises in California, with water consumption on an exponential rise and the controversial shut down of the Santa Onofre power plant.
There is still a long road that lies ahead for Nathan’s campaign until this battle comes to a conclusion in November; however, it is evident that whatever the future entails for this ambitious undertaking, Nathan has already made his message clear for everyone here at the 5Cs and the rest of California: “When trying to make a difference never let doubts or opinions get in your way.” Hopefully, we can all embody Nathan’s message as we work to create “Our Future.”