By Don C. Reed

Two years ago, a good friend asked me to recommend Mike Honda for Congress, in the newly-created 17th district.

I said I had heard good things about his opponent, Ro Khanna, and would probably vote for him.

But my friend insisted, and somehow I found myself at a lunch where Honda was speaking.

I knew his background, that he was a good man, a conscientious liberal.

But he is also in his mid-seventies. When he spoke, it was a dry buzzing monotone. I almost nodded off—and he seemed in need of a nap as well.

But I had come there for a reason. When he finished, I asked him what was for me the make or break question. As the father of a paralyzed young man, Roman Reed, I had to know:

Did he, Mike Honda, support embryonic stem cell research?

He said no, he did not, that adult stem cell research was all that was needed and it was not controversial.

He seemed confused. But exhaustion is common for politicians, who work a lot harder than is generally acknowledged.

I approached him a second time, repeating my question when I was on the way out.

Again, he said no, a little stronger this time, but repeating himself that embryonic stem cell research was not needed, and adult stem cell research was not controversial.

He made himself clear; he was against the research. Okay, fair enough, that was the deal-breaker. I could not support anyone with such an anti-science position.

But here was the surprising point. When I looked up his voting record, just to be sure, I found something puzzling.

He had voted twice to support embryonic stem cell research: the research he said he opposed.

Either he did not know, or he had simply forgotten.

When I asked Ro Khanna the same question, he got excited: bubbling over with energy, delighted that California was such a strong supporter of the research that might one day allow my paralyzed son to walk again.

No one can blame Mike Honda for not remembering he actually did support the research he said he opposed. Age comes to us all. I am 71, and fall asleep in meetings now and then myself.

But there comes a time when youth must be served. We need men and women in office with the strength and vigor to go forward, not to barely hang on.

For instance, one of the most productive laws in California legislative history was the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act of 1999 (AB 750, Dutra, D- Fremont).

Named after my paralyzed son Roman, this is the bill that paid for research leading to the first embryonic stem cell therapy in America. It was a small bill, just a million a year, but because of it, a young man that was paralyzed has now recovered the use of his hands and arms.

The bill lasted 10 years, and brought in much more money than it cost. In California dollars, it cost $17 million—but it attracted an additional $85 million in add-on grants.

It is my hope that this small but successful bill will be tried again, but this time in Washington, with serious funding behind it.

But it would require a legislative champion, someone with the strength and energy to move it forward, battling through all the committees, defeating its opponents.

Who should Roman and I approach? Mike Honda, who appears so tired and worn out he can barely stay awake—or Ro Khanna, full of energy, ready to go, a smiling warrior for progress?

Khanna is so forward looking that he was recently endorsed by none other than former President Jimmy Carter, who said of him:

“Ro Khanna has the type of idealism, energy and deep commitment to public service that we desperately need in Congress. He will be a future leader for our party and country”.

Former President Jimmy Carter Weighs In On Bay Area Congressional Race

There is also another President weighing in on the Khanna/Honda battle.

“In a move that could impact a contentious Silicon Valley congressional race, President Barack Obama has withdrawn his past endorsement of embattled Rep. Mike Honda, 74…”

Mike Honda has served his country well. But no one can go on forever: sooner or later, all must retire. It is time for him to write his memoirs, share the gathered wisdom of his journey.

But it is Ro Khanna’s hour now. He is ready, he is qualified. He is the man to face the future.

To find out more about him, visit his website:


Don C. Reed is the author of “STEM CELL BATTLES: Proposition 71 and Beyond: How Ordinary People Can Fight Back Against the Crushing Burden of Chronic Disease”, available now from


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