Californians have no shortage of politicians who claim to “speak” for them.
But it is impossible to speak for the millions of Californians who have been left behind without first listening to them tell their own stories of struggle and their own stories of hope.
Whether you are a farmer in Tulare pinching pennies to provide a college education for your child, a single parent in San Francisco worried about escalating rent or a kid in Compton being forced to study without access to textbooks, your story deserves to be heard because your story matters. You matter.
There is an old saying, the moral of which my mother instilled in me as a young child: “Tell me who you walk with and I’ll tell you who you are.” There are many politicians in California who are happy to walk with big donors and mingle with tech and business leaders. They spend their time at exclusive conferences in Davos, Switzerland, where an invite-only group of elites debate solutions to problems they have never experienced. For them, the problems are as abstract and distant as the destinations they enjoy while “solving” them.
But for so many of you, these problems are not abstract. They are concrete and real. And it is time for them to be heard by all who claim to speak on your behalf because the California where families are struggling to make ends meet deserves a voice. The California where millions of people cannot find a job that affords them the opportunity to buy a home deserves a voice. The Californians trying to figure out how they can send their child to college and retire with dignity deserve a voice.
This is personal to me. Before I was the Mayor of Los Angeles, I was the Speaker of the Assembly. Before I was the Speaker of the Assembly I was the President of the ACLU, and before that I was a community organizer. But before all of that, I was a teenager in Boyle Heights. I had just been expelled from Cathedral High School. I was angry and confused. I was voiceless. Then I found someone who believed in me – not because he saw something special in me, but because he saw something special in everyone. His name was Mr. Katz and he changed my life because he listened to what I had to say. With his help, I found my voice. I got into politics because I wanted to do for the communities I served what Mr. Katz did for me.
That is why this campaign is organized around a powerful idea – hand over the microphone and give Californians the tools to speak for themselves. In that spirit, we have launched “Share your California story” — the first of many ways we will be working to ensure that voters have a voice that will not be ignored.
The “Davos Democrats” say they have the solutions, but they have been saying that for years – and for years, the problems have gotten worse. The gap between the rich and poor in California is not a problem that they, or anyone, can solve from Switzerland.
We who call ourselves progressive must work tirelessly to make sure that the progress we make as a state is enjoyed by all who call California home. Of course, it is great that Marin County is doing well, but that does not mean we can ignore what is happening in Merced County. Doing well in California should not depend on whether you work on an almond farm in the Central Valley or at an Apple campus in Silicon Valley. And our success as a state must always be measured by how well we treat the most vulnerable among us.
To be clear, we want to hear from everyone – and that includes those in the business community who will be key partners in our effort to create millions more high-wage jobs to employ more California workers.
The problem is not that we have been listening to Tesla drivers, we should listen to everyone. But it is time to listen to the Californians who are skipping the gas station not because they drive electric cars, but because they simply cannot afford a car of any kind. We need to hear from the families who take the bus, just as my mom used to do every single day.
We need to hear from everyone – and that includes you.
If we want to change how government operates, we need to change how we elect our leaders. Our campaign wants to make that change — starting with making sure you can be heard.