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In HBO documentary, Sen. Menendez describes growing up in Hudson County

Terrence T. McDonald / The Jersey Journal
NJ.com
Oct 3, 2011

In an HBO documentary about the American Latino experience, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez describes his struggles learning English, speaking Spanish to Union City residents when he was first elected mayor there and his take on the nationwide debate on immigration.

In "The Latino List," which premiered last week on HBO and re-airs tomorrow at 7:30 a.m., Menendez said he was "incredibly shy" in school, and panicked when he was told in high school that he had to take a speech class.

"I was panic stricken, panic stricken. I remember this teacher till today," he says in the film. "She said, 'So, Robert, if you don't do this, you're gonna fail.'"

Menendez, one of New Jersey's two U.S. senators, was appointed to the post in early 2006 and then elected to a full term later that year. Previously, he was a congressman, and before that a state legislator and Union City mayor.

It was during a Union City meeting that Menendez spoke Spanish to a few residents, which he said caused an uproar among city officials and English-speaking residents. Menendez, whose term expires next year, said he responded by offering them a history lesson.

"And I had to remind the people and take 'em down to the city clerk and show them the first minutes of the city that were written in German," he says in the film.

"The Latino List" airs tomorrow at 7:30 a.m. on HBO East. It will be available on demand until October 30, and on HBO Go until Dec. 31, 2012.

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