Dr. Manny Sethi wants to make a difference.
That desire has fueled his passion in practicing medicine and, now, running for a U.S. Senate seat.
The Nashville orthopedist, who is running against former ambassador Bill Hagerty, visited Munford last week to take part in the Tipton County Reagan Day Dinner.
“I’ve been here before, a few years ago,” he said. “I used to run a non-profit, Healthy Tennessee, and we went to almost every county doing health screenings. We’ve been all across Tennessee.”
He describes the non-profit as a boots-on-the-ground initiative tasked at educating people about healthier lifestyles using their own screening results.
If you think being a trauma surgeon is so different from being a senator for him to be successful at it, he’d disagree.
“For me, this whole senate race is about keeping the American Dream alive.”
Sethi’s lived the American Dream.
The son of Indian immigrants, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and moved to rural Coffee County at age four.
“My parents were among the only real doctors there in Hillsboro, Tennessee. It’s a farming town and people didn’t have a lot. They had each other and they invested in me and my brother.”
When he was young, Sethi’s father died. This is when he found Christ and realized he wanted to become a doctor.
He used to accompany his father on house calls and remembers them transporting a patient to the hospital because there was no ambulance available. The patient’s family tried to pay his father, but he refused the money. Sethi still draws on his father’s words of wisdom from that day.
“He said to me, ‘You know, son, it doesn’t matter what’s in your bank account, but what matters is the difference that you make.’ And that’s been my whole life’s mentality. I think I just grew up wanting to make a difference.
“I think this U.S. Senate race is all about a generational opportunity to make a difference, a different kind of difference, and that’s the difference I’ve sought to make as a physician: to keep the American Dream alive for generations to come.”
Being raised in Hillsboro molded him into the person he is, the person who believes allowing small communities to make their own decisions about issues, like the opioid crisis.
“I deeply believe in the power of people in local communities, like the power of people in Tipton County to decide their own destiny, to determine what they want to do,” he said. “What I’ve realized is the local folks – the local mayors, the sheriffs – they know more in their pinky fingers than folks know in the federal government know in their entire body. The federal government has a one-size-fits-all solution to this problem. That makes no sense. We have to empower local communities like we’ve done in Healthy Tennessee. I believe in Tipton County this problem is very different than in, maybe, Shelby County or in Sullivan County and we have to empower our local community.”
Manny vs. the machine
Though he’s cordial and respectful when he speaks of his opponent, Dr. Sethi does not mince words.
He is not a politician, has never worked on campaign and has never been appointed by any politician to serve in any capacity. Sethi believes this to be beneficial for him.
“I think the challenge is this race is all about what I call ‘Manny vs. the machine,’” he said. “You have, on one hand, the establishment – who is Bill Haslam and Lamar Alexander and Mitt Romney and they’ve all lined up with one person – and then I think what you really need is someone who comes from outside of government, entrenched in all this, who deeply cares about the people of our state, especially rural Tennessee, and wants to make a difference. That’s why I’m doing it.”
While traveling the state with Healthy Tennessee, he said he saw the healthcare struggles Tennesseans have faced.
“I’ve watched the politicians say one thing and do another, watched the Washington insiders be disconnected from folks. I just came to this realization that we need people from outside of government. For me, this is just a continuation of the life journey I’ve been on of just trying to help people, make a different kind of difference and do it in a kind of way. I just think the people of rural Tennessee just need a voice. We just don’t need another Washington kind of person, we need a Tennessee person.”
Hagerty, whose signs line the roadway outside the large orange RV in which Sethi and his campaign travel, has the Trump endorsement. It’s a leg up in this race, in conservative Tennessee.
“Who wouldn’t want the Trump endorsement? Hagerty was Trump’s ambassador, so I get it,” he said. “Listen, I love the president, 80-90 percent of people in this state love the president, but I’m telling you as I’ve traveled people don’t want a Washington insider. They don’t want a guy who was Mitt Romney’s national finance chairman. They don’t want a guy who was Jeb Bush’s presidential delegate. They just don’t. And when people learn that, the decision will be clear.”
He wants people to know he supports the president, but he’s working for Tennesseans.
“That’s my objective. That’s who I am as a person. I think the decision is if you want someone from Washington who’s come back to Tennessee, then Hagerty’s your choice. If you want someone who’s actually from Tennessee, then I’m your guy. That’s the decision people have and the endorsement … that’s a coveted endorsement, but I just think the Trump movement is all about folks who are not a part of the swamp.”
On the issues, Sethi said he is pro-life and pro-heartbeat bill; he wants to empower communities to solve the opioid crisis; supports building the wall; supports the second amendment; and wants to repeal/replace Obamacare.
For him, everything comes back to the American Dream and making a difference for Tennesseans.
“I think this race is all about Tennessee, it’s not about D.C. That’s why we’re in an orange bus and I just tell the people of Tipton County if you want someone who’s going to wake up in the morning and think about you, fight for you and think about the issues that challenge you, like the rural broadband issue, the opioid crisis, healthcare … paying these deductibles that are through the roof, send me to Washington and we’ll fight together.”
For more information about Sethi, see drmannyforsenate.com.