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Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., in his Wednesday night response to President Biden's address before Congress attributed his success to his mother, the United States and a Chick-fil-A store operator named John Moniz.
Moniz, who died suddenly of a heart attack in 1985 when Scott was 19, owned a Chick-fil-A location at Northwoods Mall in North Charleston, where the now-senator spent his childhood.
"Growing up, I never dreamed I’d be standing here tonight," the senator said during his Wednesday speech. "When I was a kid, my parents divorced. My mother, my brother, and I moved in with my grandparents. Three of us, sharing one bedroom. I was disillusioned and angry, and I nearly failed out of school."
Scott added that he was "blessed" with "a praying momma"; a "mentor, a Chick-fil-A operator named John Moniz"; and "a string of opportunities that are only possible here in America."
Scott "attributes a lot of who he is" to Moniz, Ken Farnaso, the senator's press secretary, told Fox News.
"John taught him biblical principles and conservative values, and over the course of [three to four] years, he transformed his way of thinking," Farnaso said. "John’s life’s goal was to positively affect a million people. Tim’s life’s mission is to positively affect a billion people with the message of hope and opportunity."
In a 2016 op-ed for the Post and Courrier, the local newspaper in Charleston, Scott described Moiz as "an interesting man."
"He was a conservative, he was an entrepreneur," Scott wrote at the time. "...I remember I used to go down to the Chick-fil-A and get french fries all the time. One day, he asked why I always bought just the french fries and not the Chick-fil-A sandwich. I told him that the fries were cheaper."
Scott recalls one day when Moniz bought him a Chick-fil-A sandwich and brought it to the theater where Scott was working at the time and he struck up a conversation with the then-teenager. The conversation would last years. Their talks included "simple" life lessons from Moniz that were also "profound."
"He taught me that if you want to receive, you have to first give," Scott wrote. "Embedded in that conversation, I came to realize, was the concept that my mother was teaching me about individual responsibility. John was simply saying that enlightened self-interest requires you to give first, and then the receiving part takes care of itself."
Moniz also taught Scott the difference between the future senator's paycheck from the movie theater and Moniz's paycheck which had "a couple of zeros," the senator wrote.
"He taught me how to be more valuable in my own eyes so that later I could be more valuable at work, which would add zeros to my paycheck," Scott wrote in the op-ed. Moniz, he added, later taught him about how decimals could move the number of zeros in a paycheck and the process of multiplication.
"Years later as an entrepreneur and as a conservative, I see that the lessons [Moniz] was teaching me still ring true today. Perhaps more so," the senator wrote. "... In my life, not only did John Moniz transform my thinking, but he changed my life."
Scott would go on to graduate from Charleston Southern University in 1988 with a degree in political science and win his first election in 1995, becoming the first African American Republican elected to any office in South Carolina since the late 19th century after Reconstruction and the first African American Republican elected to serve in the Senate since 1979.