Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the January issue of Townhall Magazine.
Congress needs a few more superheroes. Who better than Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA)? This representative from the 10th District of Pennsylvania may as well be a Marvel Avenger after beating cancer not once, but twice. If he can defeat a dangerous disease, who says he can’t tackle congressional legislation?
Long before Marino was chiseling away at government bureaucracy with a hammer like Thor’s, he was learning timeless lessons from his father.
"My Dad was a janitor and a firefighter,” he said. “The point my father got across was that you leave two legacies—your children and your word and loyalty. I try to live by that and I’m known as a person that can be trusted.”
Like his dad, Marino accepted jobs that taught him the meaning of hard work.
“I worked in a factory until I was 30. ... I knew what it was like to work paycheck-to-paycheck—to stretch a buck. ... I was sweeping floors in a bakery, worked my way to middle management, and by 21 got married and had a mortgage.”
A Captain America who truly lived the American Dream. But, Marino’s ambitions didn’t end in a factory or kitchen. When he was once overlooked for a promotion because he didn’t have a college degree, he decided to do something about it. Two weeks after his 30th birthday, Marino enrolled in school. He said his wife helped to encourage him to pursue higher education and it was the “best thing” he ever did.
Marino would later become a U.S. attorney in Pennsylvania, where he could have given Iron Man a run for his money. He earned a reputation for being tough on organized crime and drug trafficking. This experience would later help him secure spots on the Homeland Security, Foreign Affairs, and Judiciary Committees.
After witnessing the frightening direction the country was headed while U.S. attorney, Marino decided to run for U.S. Congress.
“I’m afraid for the future of my children,” he said. “I put my money where my mouth is and ran for Congress.”
One thing Marino has passionately advocated for in Washington is congressional term limits. Politicians should focus less on getting reelected and more on serving their constituents, he believes.
“Seeing what’s going on in D.C. is a travesty. They're making a career out of it. It was never designed to be a career. The longer you’re there, it’s easy to lose contact with constituents and you’re getting hung up in beltway mentality. If you can’t do what you set out to do in 12 years, let someone else try. There’s a lot of good talent, yet power is in the hands of a few.”
Unsurprisingly, these limitations are pretty unpopular among his colleagues. But he’s not deterred and insists he is indeed getting some support for the bill.
Marino wouldn’t have been able to fight for worthy legislation like term limits if he hadn’t first fought for his health. During his ordeal with cancer, this incredible Hulk didn’t just rely on his own strength. He counted on the support of a few special people.
“I got through it because of my children,” Marino explained. “I’ve had three surgeries. I felt there’s a 50/50 chance here. They found it early enough, realized I had a cyst on my kidney and I had my left kidney removed. During the first operation, my daughter was 4 years old. I have two young kids. You’ve got to keep going, each day is a gift. … I have a lot to live for. My family and a lot of people are depending on me in my district and country. They like what I stand for.”
Marino is especially inspired by his 19-year-old adopted daughter who struggles with cystic fibrosis, a disease for which there’s no cure and the typical lifespan is late 20s or early 30s.
“She’s in the hospital three or four times a year. She’s even tougher than me—I look to my daughter for strength.”
Because of both his and his daughter’s struggles, Marino is a spokesperson for cancer awareness, currently sits on the bipartisan cancer caucus, and is a very big advocate for research on his daughter’s condition. So, you could say he’s not hanging up his cape just yet. He has plenty more to accomplish.
Cancer hasn’t slowed Marino down, and neither will partisan politics. He provided a picture of his life well lived.
“I’m a runner, I lift weights, ride motorcycles, hike, and read. I have a pretty active life—a good, full life. If the good Lord took me today, I would have lived a life better than 99.9 percent of people on this earth.”
Whether on a hospital bed or in the halls of Congress, be comforted to know that Marino is one Avenger who will not rest until his mission is accomplished.