When Manny Sethi was four years old, his family moved to Manchester, Tn., where his mom and dad would become the doctors in a medically starved town in rural America. His folks came to the Land of Promise from New Delhi, India, and Manni hit the ground running. For years boys across Tennessee have played baseball and was it because he had never seen a baseball glove, or that his skin was a different color, or that he didn’t use Southern words, Manny isn’t sure. But he didn’t get picked on a team.
That’s when Manny sought out a man named Dan Hershaw and asked him if he would teach him to hit and throw and catch a baseball. Mr. Hershaw loved it. From that day on Manny was always the first kid picked in every sport and, as has been proven since 1776, this American dream was met, But not quite. Some years later Mr. Hershaw was in a bad accident and rushed to Vanderbilt Hospital. A trauma surgeon was there almost immediately and you can decide who was most thrilled – Mr. Hershaw or the kid he once taught how to steal second base.
I met Manny about a year ago through our mutual friend Mitch Mutter. The first couple of times I realized fate had been kind. Manny is wonderfully fun and to be around him for any time at all is to be blessed. After the fourth or fifth time the blessing picked up speed and, so help me, it’s more of a God thing. This spring came word that Manny was going to run to replace Lamar Alexander as a senator from Tennessee. Just you watch … that’s a God thing, too.
Manny’s quest to make this world a better place may well have originated on a Manchester ball field. “That’s where I first became aware of parents cheering for kids other than their own. My parents taught Rog (his brother) and me that the strongest medicine in the world is love. I’ve seen it happen so much that now I don’t even look for it. … really … and it’s impossible to give it all away.
“The people of Manchester were the best I’ve ever seen at it. They could have cared less that the Sethis came from India. Everybody was a neighbor … good times, bad times didn’t make a bit of difference. Not long ago I ran into my kindergarten teacher and when she told me how proud of me she was, it felt like it did when I was five years old … only better.”
It’s a good bet that Manny is the only guy from Coffee County High School to go to the Ivy League Brown University and then straight to Harvard Medical School. He did his internship and residency at fabled Mass General Hospital. “And I couldn’t wait to come back to Tennessee. I was really fortunate to do a Fellowship at Vanderbilt – these are my people!”
So why interrupt a brilliant medical career in a clearly dysfunctional and badly warped political snake nest? “I feel I’m unique in that I can see so many solutions. In healthcare we should work harder insuring an individual’s needs. In medicine we should do a better job treating wellness. In mental health it is being proven so much baggage we carry comes from ‘an adverse childhood event.’ We desperately need better mental facilities in our schools.”
What about immigration? “As you can see I have some experience with that but don’t get my mother started. She’ll tell you: ‘Get in line!’ She did it, my dad did it, and when you go by the rules it works. The key word in illegal immigrants is ‘illegal.’ When some use undocumented immigrants that’s illegal. My parents are intensely proud of their citizenship and it is just as painful for Mom to see our country suffering because we have allowed illegal aliens to literally steal from Americans.” Manny is not just talking the welfare fraud, either. “It is killing our labor force … illegals will work for less but what you can’t see is the American who can’t get hired legally for that same job.”
Sethi is just as upset about the poor leadership that resulted in the ‘Common Core‘ approach in our public schools. “It will take years for us the survive that mistake.”
This time next year will be the senatorial primary. Donald Trump has already endorsed “more of the same” in Bill Hagerty, who has done “more of the same” as the Ambassador to Japan and has pledged to do “more of the same” to the National Republican Party for those who want to offer our state “more of the same” for the next eight years.
That former Governor Bill Haslam screamed at Sethi when he learned the “more of the same” boundary had been broached by a trauma surgeon is refreshing in the rubber-stamp camp and political insiders whisper it is a positive sign that Haslam continues to have a pulse.
One thing is certain: Manny Sethi is conservative, Christian, principled, and exciting. His forward vision, his zest and the fact he isn’t “more of the same” are among his strengths, not to mention using the most powerful medicine in the world on the guy who taught him baseball.