Meet  Ed O'Brien: Candidate for 
San Bernardino County District Attorney

I am a father, a U.S. Marine and a public defender.  I have been a San Bernardino County public servant since 1998, working as a deputy district attorney for two years and as a deputy public defender for 17 years.  I am seeking the District Attorney’s Office because I am disgusted with the unjust and costly policies of my opponent.  I believe that this county deserves better.

I’ve learned that success sometimes comes with a bit of luck, a lot of support and a sense of security.  I owe this great lesson to my mother, Alice.  She sacrificed daily to raise me and my two brothers in a poor neighborhood in the outskirts of Boston, MA.  Each morning, before going to her minimum wage job, she would decide whether to take the bus or treat herself to Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.  She could never afford both the coffee and the ride.  After working all day, she would return home, and, before she entered the front door, start yelling and barking out commands. 

My mother was a strong woman: a single parent raising three boys and doing her best to overcome the stresses of surviving on a minimum wage job and without access to health insurance.  She worked hard and made sure that, though poor, we always had something to eat.  Sometimes we ate canned asparagus on toast with lots of butter, if we could afford it.  On a few memorable nights we ate steak and potatoes and forgot that we didn’t always eat like that.

My mom never hugged us; I never heard “I love you” or “Great job!”  Words of encouragement or praise only came from strangers.  She never seemed happy or satisfied.  When my brother, Mike, joined the Marines, he joked, “Boot camp is like a vacation compared to living with Ma.” She yelled, poked, prodded and demanded that we work hard, respect others and value family.  She believed that if we worked hard we would succeed.

Coming from a working class neighborhood, college was not really an option.  I worked 30 hours per week selling shoes and didn’t have much time to study so my grades were poor.  My brothers weren’t interested in college and most neighborhood kids hoped to learn some trade, content to live pay check to pay check.  When an armed forces recruiter invited me to meet with him to discuss my future, I decided to enlist in the United States Marine Corps.  I reported to boot camp in October 1986 and five years later, I decided to give college a try. 

My time as a Marine reaffirmed my mother’s values of hard work, dedication, focus and respect for others.  When I started community college with funding from the GI Bill, I had the skills and values needed to succeed.  I passed the Bar exam in 1997 and began my career as an attorney.

I’m proud of my accomplishments and my career.  I am so thankful and feel lucky to have had my mother, Alice, forcefully instilling a sense of security, belonging and hope for a better future.  Perhaps this is what separates me from my clients.  We were poor but had food, clothing, uncrowded shelter and, most importantly, we were safe from trauma.  Take any one of these away, add mental illness, a disability or lack of family support and the probability rises that I would not become District Attorney and would instead be prosecuted by one.

I want to be the District Attorney because I see the many lives that aren’t born into situations that will likely lead to success.  When we lack food, shelter, security and support we can grow hopeless and exist in despair.  When criminality results we must consider the context of their life. Were they evil or desperate? The former go to prison; the latter need support, services and an opportunity to reform.  We have an obligation to keep our communities safe, secure and healthy. 

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