Last week, I asked readers of The Bay Citizen, California Watch's sister site, about the state of affairs in California. From spending cuts to a return to the core mission of our public education system, we examined some of the challenges, opportunities and action plans for California in a lively discussion on Facebook and The Bay Citizen's website. This provided us with some extra perspective going into our next Future State event, part of a series presented by California Watch. The series is meant to address the major challenges our state faces and its diverse residents.
Conversations at the event, held Wednesday in Sacramento, centered on themes in “California State of Mind: The Legacy of Pat Brown,” an award-winning documentary from filmmaker Sascha Rice, the former governor's granddaughter.
During the day, we held a lunchtime discussion with Corey Cook, director of the University of San Francisco's Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good, and A.G. Block, associate director of the UC Center in Sacramento. Both work with college students on matters of politics and public policy and work to create dialogue with young people about issues that matter to them.
The discussion focused on the level of political engagement today's generation of students has and how this could translate to social and political impact down the road. Confident that students “will create the political dialogue for their own generation,” Block was optimistic that today's students “want something more; they want something more significant and want to make a greater impact.”
We got to see this optimism in action during the next part of the day, when we stopped by one of Rio Americano High School's Civitas classes. Civitas is a four-year program dedicated to teaching the next generation of leaders and enriching students with a sense of civic leadership and responsibility.
The class had been watching “California State of Mind” as part of a classroom assignment and spoke to some of the problems they are seeing in their communities. Bipartisan leadership, affordable higher education and the equal distribution of state income among cities were all key issues to these young people.
The film also had another interest for students – how pressure from family affects choices in life. One student asked filmmaker Rice how her family – including her uncle Gov. Jerry Brown and her mother, former State Treasurer Kathleen Brown – reacted to her decision not to pursue politics.
“Making this film was like making peace with my family,” Rice said, identifying the documentary as her way of carrying on her grandfather's work.
The final portion of the day was dedicated to a screening and panel discussion of the documentary itself. Led by CIR Executive Chair Phil Bronstein, the discussion ranged from the challenges California faces today to how Sacramento politics have changed since Pat Brown’s tenure as governor.
So now that we know some of the challenges we all face as Californians, what can we do to get our state back on track?
Let us know what you think in the comments, or feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify key issues raised by students.