Is This Any Way to Choose a President?

Corey Cook, PhD

Corey Cook 
Corey Cook, Professor of Politics is currently on leave but is still a critical observer of local, state and national politics. Professsor Cook regularly contributes to the Leo T. McCarthy Center blog while he establishes the School of Public Service at Boise State University.

On the eve of the first in the nation primaries in New Hampshire, the presidential nominating process is beginning to take some shape. On the Republican side, the field has been whittled from more than a dozen candidates (enough to fill two debate stages it seems) to six more (or less) serious contenders. And on the Democratic side, the once invincible frontrunner appears to be locked in a long-term contest. Hopefully a more well-defined campaign will reduce the amount of ill-informed punditry and meaningless media babble. I’m not optimistic, but perhaps it would be helpful to remember that this is a process designed to choose a president, not the winner of Celebrity Apprentice.

For the past month, the national media covering the election has spent countless hours debating “home brew servers”, whether Jeb Bush is misleading voters by putting the exclamation point behind his name on his logo (Jeb!), if Larry David is more or less electable than Bernie Sanders, whether it was OK or not for Dr. Ben Carson to fly back to Florida after the Iowa caucuses, and how Marco Rubio got stuck on repeat during the last debate. And of course covering Donald Trump’s every utterance. And that’s just background noise to the “real story”: the relentless horse race coverage involving “jockeying” candidates, “sprinting” to the finish line, edging out their nearest contender “by a nose”. Taking the horse race analogy to it’s illogical extreme, the media now have Republican candidates running in lanes: the “establishment lane”, “evangelical lane”, “insurgent lane.” Forgetting for a moment how wrong nearly all of the pundit class has been to this point (Trump will crater, Rubio will cruise in New Hampshire, Sanders can’t raise money…) what is astonishing is that given the incredible amount of media attention and constant pontificating, there are a number of underreported stories. Here are a two.


There are several different primary elections happening at the same time. One leading candidate for the nomination Scott Walker of Wisconsin didn’t even survive long enough to enter Iowa. Many more disbanded their efforts within hours of the first caucusing, and several others are expected to end their campaigns after New Hampshire. But these states mathematically do not matter to the outcome. Democrats will have 4,763 delegates choose their nominee at the convention this summer. Only 44 were decided in Iowa with another 24 to be allocated after New Hampshire.

Both are extreme outliers (a fact that clearly distorts not only the political process but also federal policymaking – hello ethanol subsidies). On the Democratic side, both states are among the least diverse of any electorate. New Hampshire is the second most liberal. On the Republican, Iowa is overrepresented by religious conservatives (past winners include Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum and Pat Robertston narrowly lost against Bob Dole). By most measures, the results in these states do not matter. Instead, it’s the perception of how a candidate did that matters relative to expectations. But this isn’t how voters see things at all. Marco Rubio did not “win” Iowa, he came in third. But to those for whom the horse race analogy is apt – wealthy donors hoping to maximize the returns on their “bets” – momentum and the perception of success is as important as delegate counts. Candidates who are “forced out” after poor showings are those who have difficulty convincing donors of their electability, a perception that makes its own reality.

The overreliance on early state results is an absurdity without understanding the full campaign finance picture. The top 100 donors in the 2016 cycle thus far, have spent $195 million. That is more than the smallest two million donors combined, according to Politico (who have contributed only $155 million). The perception of success or failure is paramount to these top donors – the vast majority of whom are motivated primarily by ideological and policy considerations and are eager to back the most viable acceptable candidate. Rubio’s Iowa win sent a clear signal to these top donors about his relative electability vis-à-vis Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Chris Christie. After gaining only a small amount of additional (and I would argue highly skewed data) from New Hampshire, you can be assured that betting patterns will change again.

Secondly, because these are intense intraparty squabbles where perhaps the only point of agreement is how much better one’s fellow partisans are than anyone else of the opposing party (thus the constant need to get candidates to pledge to support anyone on stage running against any candidate of the opposing party), we’ve lost focus on whether the person elected will have any ability to get things done.

The fact is that Democratic and Republican debates are different not only in size and tone, they are about substantively different realities. The candidates are talking about entirely different issues in entirely different ways, with diametrically opposed world views. Democrats talk about climate change, income inequality, and banking regulations. Republicans talk about abortion, Isis, Iran, and Obamacare.

It’s understandable that the debate moderators are interested in pointing out those issues that matter most to primary voters. But this focus diverts attention from the remarkable difference between the two different debates we’re having. It’s not just that candidates stake out more ideologically pure positions in the primary only to “pivot” back to the middle in the general election, it’s that they are talking to two entirely different audiences about entirely different things. And this is deeply concerning for democracy and any notion that whoever emerges victorious in November will have any capacity to bridge the partisan divide and actually govern.

Our process is largely determined by the largest donors and candidates appealing to their most strident fellow partisans. And then we wonder why Washington, D.C. is mired in gridlock and compromise is uttered like a dirty word. It would be difficult to argue that the next president will be better positioned to govern after surviving this process – and ultimately that’s a pretty terrible way to choose a president.

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Applications for our Master of Public Affairs and Master of Arts in Urban Affairs programs close March 1 – apply today!

Master of Public Affairs (MoPA) Immersion into D.C. and Campaign Research

Enrique Aguilar, Master of Public Affairs candidate, USF

Enrique Aguilar
Master of Public Affairs candidate ’16

The Master of Public Affairs (MoPA) candidates have the option every year to apply for a week long immersion class based in Washington, D.C. Led by USF Politics Professor Ken Goldstein, the DC Immersion program for MOPA students is designed to introduce students to the methods used to develop, target, and deliver messages in election and advocacy campaigns as well as in the policy process. Blending theory and practice, students met in class, heard from speakers, and made site visits in the nation’s Capitol as they learned how different tools are utilized by political professionals. Students were required to synthesize the day’s material through applied exercises and the creation of actual work products.

The final product of the week for this year’s cohort was based on a campaign assignment that split the participants into two groups: Democrats and Republicans. Each group received a candidate who is running for a Senate seat in Florida’s 2016 election. The Democratic group received a Democratic candidate and conducted opposition research on the Republican opponent, as well as researched their own candidate. The Republican team did the same thing: conducted opposition research on the Democratic opponent and researched their own Republican candidate.

Once the research was completed, both groups created their own polling memos with several themes they determined based on the research they conducted. This polling memo was the basis for a survey that both groups worked together to craft, which was then sent out to residents of Florida via email through a partnership with a national political consulting group.

Once the data was received from the survey, the groups worked with their Democratic or Republican teammates and created a presentation that highlighted the significant survey results and how that information could potentially change the (mock) race. It is important to note that neither candidate in the Florida race was involved in this project and the purpose was solely academic and provided our students with practical, and portable skills to set them apart in the workforce. Enrique Aguilar participated in the 2016 MoPA DC program and shares his experience with us.

Although I do not possess the political campaign experience of some fellow students in the Master of Public Affairs (MoPA) program, I do have a background in political science and international studies, which led me to this graduate program on a quest to gain practical skills to complement my undergraduate education in political theory. The MoPA DC immersion program was a great opportunity to learn about political opposition research and personally experience some of the challenges of working on a political campaign.

On arrival day, Professor Ken Goldstein welcomed our small group to his home where we enjoyed a delicious dinner with his family. Brett Di Resta, one of a handful of opposition researchers in the country, was also present at dinner. Both of them gave us words of encouragement before teaching us their challenging one-week program, normally taught in semester-long courses by Di Resta at George Washington University and Professor Goldstein in the USF in DC program.

After we had a full day of learning about campaigns, we were split in our groups for the main project. I was in the Democratic group, which meant my group and I researched our own Democratic candidate, Congressman Patrick Murphy, while conducting thorough opposition research on the Republican opponent, Ron DeSantis. From this research we wrote a detailed polling memo with ten themes we noticed about the opponent based on the evidence at hand. We condensed this list down again to come up with five compelling statements against DeSantis and then went into a survey. Residents of Florida received the survey via email and were chosen based on a random sampling of email addresses. Survey respondents answered basic demographic information, we tested their political knowledge and interest, and used our five statements to determine if likely voters were influenced by our statements, and therefore make a difference in the campaign. After critically analyzing the survey data, we presented our findings to Professor Goldstein, his colleague Di Resta, and the rest of of DC classmates. Our survey showed that residents of Florida found our candidate, Congressman Patrick Murphy (D) more favorable and more likely to vote for him than Ron DeSantis.

A memorable moment of this trip to Washington, D.C. was when my group was gathered around a table doing opposition research and writing a memorandum, while also trying to watch President Obama’s last State of the Union address on television. It was hard to believe that this was happening near the UC Washington Center where my group was working on our project.

In such short time this course taught me skills and gave me insight from experienced professionals that will be useful when thinking about my career choices after graduation. Having spent a week in Washington also gave me a small preview of what to expect if I pursue a career in our nation’s Capitol. The chilly evening walks around the National Mall were spectacular, but more importantly they were a time for self-reflection to think about why, through public policy, I am able to promote the common good and advocate for social justice.

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Enrique Aguilar was one of thirteen participants in the 2016 MoPA DC Immersion program. A generous donation in any amount helps fund student opportunities that Enrique was able to experience.

Apply here to the Master of Public Affairs program. Applications close March 1.

Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars Research the Western Addition’s Inspirations Murals

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This academic year the Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars (EMDS) are gathering the stories of African American leaders depicted on the Inspirations mural outside of Ella Hill Hutch Community Center. In fall students drew names out of a hat and were tasked with researching individuals and writing biographies that they shared in their fall final presentations. This spring student teams are linked with living Inspirations so that all students have the opportunity to interview an African American leader. Bios and photos of individuals on the mural will be compiled into a book that will be shared with community members.

This project is a continuation of work started by community members Ms. Altheda Carrie and Mrs. Lynette White. Ms. Carrie and Mrs. White began collecting stories from the Inspirations mural years ago, when the City of San Francisco provided funding and District Supervisor Wendy Nelder was involved. That project was temporarily set aside during shifts in City leadership and funding sources, but it was eagerly picked up again when Ms. Carrie and Mrs. White brought it to USF as a possible collaboration. It is a natural outgrowth of the blossoming collaboration between EMDS, the Leo T. McCarthy Center and Engage San Francisco. Sociology Professor Stephanie Sears is the faculty director for the program and Leo T. McCarthy Center Associate Director for Community Engaged Learning, Andrea Wise is collaborating with Professor Sears on the partnership by facilitating class discussions on community assets and campus community partnerships.

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Beginning My USF in D.C. Experience

Emily Adsit10

Emily Adsit
USF in DC spring ’16 participant

USF in DC is a semester-long program in Washington, DC that integrates a full-time internship with relevant coursework taught by USF faculty and University of California Washington Program faculty. Emily is a performing arts and social justice major with a music concentration, double minoring in African American studies and legal studies and is pursuing a certificate in theatre tech and design. 

It was 34 degrees outside when I first landed at Dulles International Airport. Never having spent much time in cold weather, that was definitely a shock. The biggest shock, however, came when my Lyft driver pulled up in front of the University of California DC (UCDC) building and said, “Wow, you’re only six or seven blocks away from The White House, that’s cool!” Sure enough, I walked to the corner, looked down 16th St NW, and caught my first glimpse of The White House.

Leo T. McCarthy Center USF in DC blog

That was one of the most surreal moments I have ever had in my life. The next was a couple hours later when my roommates walked with me to The White House and I got to stand in front of the building that great leaders and incredible people have worked in. The next would come the following morning when we walked to the Washington Monument and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and when UCDC went on a tour of Capitol Hill. There was also a moment when I crossed the National Mall and picked out the exact spot where Mandy Hampton (played by Moira Kelly) was pulled over in the pilot episode of The West Wing, though that’s more nerdy than surreal!

It’s been a week since that first night, and I’m getting more acclimated to the District, though I still slip and call it “the city.” I’ve memorized the address to the building (and I understand the importance of including the quadrant in addresses), I’ve had Dunkin’ Donuts for the first (and second time, the very next day), and I’ve walked past The White House more than once. I’ve also become accustomed (as much as one can be) to saying sentences like “I walked to the Washington Monument this morning!” I am a card-carrying member of the Library of Congress, I have taken the Metro, I’ve officially visited Virginia and Maryland for the first time in my life, I’ve started my classes (which include taking a week-long intensive on political research with the Master of Public Affairs candidates).

Leo T. McCarthy USF in DC blog

I have (as of today!) accepted an offer to intern at an organization I am excited about, the Center for Policy Analysis and Research at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, where I will be able to work on projects that promote and aim to effect positive social change. This city is unbelievable, the possibilities are endless, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the next three months.

Apply for the USF in DC program here, applications close March 8, 2016. 

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NOTE: A generous gift helps fund Leo T. McCarthy Center undergraduate students: $1,500 covers the cost of travel, books and materials for a student in our USF in DC program.

What About an Internship Abroad?

Leo T. McCarthy Center blog - Nichole

Nichole Vasquez
Privett Global Scholars participant

When I first learned about the Privett Global Scholars at a school information session, I immediately knew this was something I wanted to do.

The program is a ten-week internship in Udaipur, India where students are placed at NGO’s (non-governmental organizations), to complete a sustainable development project. When I first heard a former program participant talk about her experience abroad, her account consisted learning Hindi, few people at her work speaking English, and living with a host family eating traditional Indian food three times a day.

I myself, knew little to nothing about India, its culture, or what sustainable development looked like. The unfamiliarity of the experience pulled me in, and a couple months later I was living in India with a host family, interning at an NGO, and embracing a culture I had known little about.

Leo T. McCarthy Center blog

When searching for and working at my internship, I learned many different things along the way. Here are the three most important:

  1. Find the resources on campus and in the community.

Take the time to look around campus and the community to see what services, organizations, and other resources are available to you. Internships, jobs, and volunteer opportunities are available where you least expect it.

  1. Try something new!

Even if something doesn’t sound like it’s your thing, go for it! You never know if a new experience could spark a new passion or even lead to your next job.

  1. Keep an open mind.

To get the most out of the internship experience, try to keep an open mind. Learning about a new culture and workplace can be overwhelming, but try to form friendships and listen to your co­workers, bosses, and the people you meet along the way.

I was fortunate enough that this internship led me to my next job as an Advocate for Community Engagement through the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good. In this position, I work between a non-profit and students at USF. Although now I am back in the U.S., my time in India equipped me with the skills necessary to work in a non-profit.

While an internship can be the experience of work itself, it is truly more than that. It is made up of the environment, the people you meet, and the experiences you have. An internship, no matter how close or far, can be the experience of a lifetime!

This post is part of the Looksharp Internship Blog Competition. To read more about the competition and view other posts go here.

Jumping Back into the First Semester of Graduate School

Jeno Wilkinson - Master of Public Affairs at USF

Jeno Wilkinson
Master of Public Affairs candidate ’17

As I look back on my first semester of graduate school, I remember how I felt starting the Master of Public Affairs (MoPA) program back in August. It had been about a year between finishing my undergraduate work and going back to school, so my chief concern entering the fall 2015 semester was if I would be able to get back into the same routines that had yielded success for me in undergrad.

After the first couple weeks of finding my stride in class, as well as at home, I was able to dive headlong into the courses and materials in front of me. The courses offered in the first semester of the MoPA program were a great way to reground myself on the core pillars of what makes our political system move. Having majored in political science during undergrad, this first semester allowed me to reengage with many of the foundational documents and ideas that guide the political conversations of our day.

As the semester progressed, these foundational steps allowed me to better grasp why things are the way they are today and how looking back at the genesis of these problems and issues can be a tremendous asset in developing how to best proceed forward. By taking this approach, I was able to bring in some of the topics and issues that are close to my heart and use that skillset to help develop possible solutions.

This set the stage for me to be able to write my semester research paper on a topic I care deeply about; politics and sports. By looking into local economic development policies of both Oakland and San Francisco over the past forty years, I was able to see this as at the core of why the two cities have had similar yet very different outcome for seeking new stadiums for their professional baseball teams. Without the great ability, encouragement, and guidance of the MoPA faculty, I would not have been able to draw such conclusions while also writing a research paper that can be used for professional development as well.

My first semester in the MoPA program has showed me that the program has a great ability to take topics I care about and use the courses offered to help further those causes. And while I’m very much enjoying winter break, I do look forward to getting back in the classroom.

Master of Public Affairs - USF

Life-long conversations on neighborhoods, housing and gentrification

David Donahue, Director of the Leo T. McCarthy Center

David Donahue
Director, Leo T. McCarthy Center

Community-engaged learning claims many student benefits like making learning relevant by bridging theory and practice, promoting openness to multiple perspectives, and fostering dispositions to further community involvement. As I reflect on my community-engaged learning in college over three decades ago, one measure of that learning’s value sticks with me — enduring questions that I’ve considered for a lifetime since. One question that was first posed in Providence, Rhode Island in the 1980s has stayed with me for decades is especially relevant in San Francisco in 2015: Who can claim a neighborhood?

As an undergraduate student doing research on the history of buildings for a local preservation society, I remember talking with one of the society’s leaders about how in the neighborhood I was researching, Portuguese immigrants and their families were being displaced by what were then called “yuppies.” Responding to my concern and sense of loss in this change, she said, “No group is entitled to live somewhere forever.” At the time, I was taken aback, but I’ve never stopped asking the question, “Whose neighborhood — and why?” As a resident of a block bridging the Mission and the Castro, the question has personal relevance. Is the Castro always to be a gay neighborhood — even as more heterosexual families move in? As the Latino population of the Mission continues to decline, will that neighborhood lose its current identity? As a resident of gentrifying (gentrified?) San Francisco, I ask these questions, knowing that both the Castro and Mission had other identities before their current ones.

I’m grateful for my community-engaged learning experience in college because my faculty advisor helped put my questions into conversation with other related questions about neighborhood identity. This led to other questions about the right to housing and to community based on identity; questions about how cities evolve and whether that evolution can or should be channeled, stopped, slowed down, or sped up. The answers I’ve developed to these questions inform everything from the calculus of where I live (Does my presence contribute to changing the character of the neighborhood? Does it change the availability of rental housing stock?) to how I vote (Will this referendum preserve valued characteristics of the neighborhood? Will it make it harder for others to find housing?). The programs at the Leo T. McCarthy Center are committed to fostering this kind of reflection about important policy matters that lasts a lifetime.

David Donahue - Director, Leo T. McCarthy Center

Applying ‘Change the World From Here to Washington, D.C.

Katherine Pantangco in WH Press Rm
Katherine Pantangco
USF in DC Fall 2015 participant
As I walked into my supervisor’s office on my first day to partake in what would be one of many “huddles” (office lingo for team and one-on-one check-ins), I glanced across her desk to see a sticky note posted on her computer screen which read, “Every day counts!” My supervisor, and every orientation I participated in as I began my internship, emphasized how precious a commodity time is in the White House. Knowing this, I approached my time in our nation’s Capitol with a framework of intentionality that I have come to appreciate as a University of San Francisco student.
During the fall 2015 semester, I had the privilege to participate in the Leo T. McCarthy Center’s USF in DC program. I take USF’s motto, “Change the World From Here” to heart and decided to carry it across the country, in my pursuit for tangible work experience in our nation’s Capitol.
WH Fall Garden Tour

I was one of over 150 interns selected throughout the country to work at the White House, where it was a distinct honor to serve at the pleasure of the President of the United States. I was delighted to hear that I would be interning in my first choice office, the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, which Senior Advisor to the President, Valerie Jarrett oversees. I particularly wanted to work with the Office of Public Engagement because of their commitment to serving, as what I like to call the “advocacy arm” or the bridge between our nation’s advocacy organizations and the White House.

I approached this internship with the experience I have gained because of the amazing opportunities that USF and the city of San Francisco have afforded me, such as previously interning at USF’s Cultural Centers, volunteering with the San Francisco Organizing Project, and working at the American Civil Liberties Union. The on-the-ground outreach and organizing skills I had developed while immersed here at USF and the local community better prepared me for working in public engagement on a national level, where I worked on the Latino and Immigration Outreach portfolio.
Pope Francis and POTUS
A few events I provided administrative support to included the White House immigration team’s Citizenship Public Awareness campaign launch, Hispanic Heritage Month programs, staffing the first ever White House celebration of Filipino American History Month, and the Holy See Arrival of his Holiness Pope Francis. The exposure that this internship offered me was not  what I expected. The level of respect and teamwork I witnessed evoked a mission-driven office environment that made me feel very much at home. Never did I imagine that I would consider the White House a place I’d like to come home to, nor did I imagine that I would develop lifelong relationships with my colleagues at the White House or my USF in DC cohort.
As I continue to pursue a career in public service and advocacy, whether it be through government or non-profit work, I will take the lessons from my work experiences and my USF in DC politics courses with me. The classes I took, including Research Methods, Professional Development and Policy Advocacy, and American Political Journalism (which was taught at the Washington Post) were relevant and practical to interning in a Washington D.C. office. Moreover, through my experience interning at the White House, I will take away this important lesson: the potential for change relies on being able to build bridges between different communities, whether that means on an interpersonal level, organizational level, and across political ideology and party lines.
Nearing the end of my internship, President Obama met with all the interns and provided some lasting advice:
“Worry less about what you want to be. Worry more about what you want to do.” 
The President approached sharing this advice as a community organizer whose commitment to social justice relies on applying knowledge and passion to action. His words reminded me of a quote by Leonardo da Vinci that I opened my personal statement with in my application to USF as a high school senior: 
“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”
I want to express my deepest gratitude to the Leo T. McCarthy Center and USF in DC faculty for facilitating one of the most life-changing experiences one could ask for. I will always look back on my semester in DC as a cornerstone moment of my personal and professional development, one that could have not have happened if it were not for your commitment to your students in changing the world from here.
Apply for the USF in DC program starting in January by clicking here. Applications close March 6, 2016.

Who’s Leo?

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There’s a name that graces our door and the suite of offices located in Masonic #103 and we mention this name dozens of times a day – it’s listed on every brochure, rack card and report that cross our desks. Many of our students never had the chance to meet Leo Tarsicius McCarthy and even now rarely find faculty and staff that knew and worked with the Center’s namesake.

Who was Leo T. McCarthy?

Leo T. McCarthy is well known for being the longest serving Lieutenant Governor of California where he served for three consecutive terms – twelve years. However, Leo McCarthy began serving the public long before holding statewide office – he was passionate about public service, which he turned into a career spanning more than 30 years.

After moving to San Francisco in 1933 at the age of four from Auckland, New Zealand, Leo McCarthy went on to become a student of San Francisco’s educational institutions including Mission Dolores Elementary School, St. Ignatius College Preparatory and earned his Bachelor’s from the University of San Francisco. Afterward he went on to serve his country during the Korean War in the United States Air Force. Upon returning from active duty, McCarthy went back to continue his education and earned his J.D. in 1961.

In 1958, McCarthy transitioned into politics by managing Senator John McAteer’s successful campaign for the California State Senate. Leo McCarthy himself made the decision to run for office in 1963 and was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. After five years serving as a Supervisor, he was elected to the State Assembly where he served as Speaker of the Assembly for six years.

In the early 1980s, McCarthy ran a successful campaign and moved on to become a statewide elected official. As California’s longest serving Lieutenant Governor, McCarthy’s political work revolved around economic development, international trade, education, health and the environment. He firmly believed in social justice and equal opportunities for everyone – foundations that shape our core values here at the Leo T. McCarthy Center.

In 2001, the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good was established on the campus of the University of San Francisco and our doors opened in 2002. McCarthy was inspired in part from believing strongly in the importance of education and by Father Steven Privett, who at his inaugural speech spoke of “educating for a just society”. The mission and core values of the Center echoes McCarthy’s professional ethics where his colleagues often spoke of McCarthy as hardworking, honest, and a champion for justice. 

As a public official, family man and mentor, Leo’s life is an ideal to be emulated, said Art Agnos who served as Speaker Leo T. McCarthy’s Legislative Assistant before eventually becoming Mayor of San Francisco.

Former McCarthy Fellow in Sacramento student and current Board member, Casey Farmer recalls…

I met Lt. Governor Leo McCarthy as a junior during my Honors Public Service Thesis Course in the McCarthy Center, he was our first guest speaker of the semester. I distinctly remember his genuine and kind spirit, his bright mind and fascinating stories, and his passionate dedication to improving the lives of Californians.

While he passed away in 2007, his legacy lives on through the students who come through the Leo T. McCarthy Center with intentions of pursuing professional careers in civic engagement, political activism and public service – qualities which he cherished and modeled for generations to come.

The McCarthy Center will urge students who pass our way to embrace passionately some mission in public service.
—Leo T. McCarthy, Founder

NOTE: A generous year-end gift helps fund Leo T. McCarthy Center graduate students: $500 covers the cost of books and materials for a  student in our Master of Public Affairs or Master of Arts in Urban Affairs programs.

Random acts of kindness


Rebecca McDowell
Master of Public Affairs and Practical Politics candidate ’16

There’s a quote I frequently think of that’s often used when tragic events happen in the world – the Boko Haram kidnapping, the Paris attack, Newtown shooting, Boston bombing, Colorado shootings, Kenya attack and countless others. This quote is well known if you grew up like I did watching Mr. Rogers:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
― Fred Rogers

The reason I mention this is because December brings around holiday feelings and the season of giving. Helping others and sharing kindness to the world should be a year round tradition, but often times it can be lost with the business of living or is only noticed during tragic events. The holiday season brings with it a reminder for us to pause and notice those around us and the joy of giving instead of receiving. Growing up in school my principal always reminded us that giving does not necessarily mean only expensive gifts, but through acts of kindness – letting someone know how important they are to you, lending a listening ear, etc. These lessons were instilled in me from a young age and I continue to try to live them out in my everyday life. As a candidate in the Master of Public Affairs program in the Leo T. McCarthy Center at the University of San Francisco studying politics, ethical leadership and what it means to serve others – I continue to see how important these lessons of kindness are in the way of how people work together and help others.

These thoughts and reflection prompted me to create a random acts of kindness calendar for the month of December as a reminder that kindness goes a long way and truly does help make the world a better place. There are some open spots left – what random act of kindness would you suggest? Write your ideas in the comments below!

DECEMBER Random acts of kindness 2015(1)