The first day, Jan. 3, was hectic. There was the swearing-in at noon. Then an open house. Then a re-enactment of the swearing-in with family members and House Speaker John Boehner. And there were the first votes.
“We got the office keys just the day before,” Bera said. “It was a good day, though.”
It also was a good day for Bera’s father, who had come to the U.S. from India in the 1950s to study engineering.
“What an honor to get sworn in and then to look up and see my dad standing in the gallery,” Bera said. “He had a beaming smile all day.”
Like other children of immigrants, Bera knows about possibilities. He was born in Los Angeles in 1965 and attended public schools, where his mother taught for three decades. Bera attended a community college, then the University of California, Irvine, where he earned his medical degree and met his wife of 22 years.
His career as a doctor, a county government official and a university admissions dean led him to run for Congress in 2010, challenging longtime Republican Rep. Dan Lungren. Bera lost a close race in a bad year for Democrats.
But learning from his mistakes, and last year, with the help of redistricting, fundraising and an endorsement from former President Bill Clinton, Bera eked out a victory.
He came to Washington for freshman orientation before he was declared the official winner, a situation made more awkward by the fact that Lungren was in charge of the orientation. On the last day, Bera boarded the plane back to California as a congressman-elect.
Bera said he and Lungren spoke by phone.
“It was a brief conversation, but he made sure to emphasize the honor that I was about to embark on,” the fledgling lawmaker said, “that this really was about the institution of Congress, which is bigger than any one member.”