Learning to Care About Politics

Hallie Balch, McCarthy Sacramento Fellow 2017

Something that I often hear from family members, friends, and teachers is, “The government doesn’t work.” Chances are, if you’re familiar with American politics, you have heard or even said something similar yourself. This was the mindset that I even had as I prepared for my internship with the McCarthy Fellows program. Pessimistic? Sure, but political inaction is prevalent within our society.

As a student at Dominican University, I have been surrounded by people with different political ideologies throughout my college experience. I came to the McCarthy Fellows program expecting liberal individuals with a streamlined theory on politics and little room for my own conservative ways of thinking. What I found in the Fellows was actually quite different – a unique group of people like me, eager to learn and better understand the ways of our government in California.

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This is the most important observation from my time in Sacramento is—just because someone holds different beliefs does not mean their reasons are not valid or that they lack a voice or passion. In my McCarthy Fellows cohort, we each study politics and government in our respective fields. To be a part of the process is eye-opening, to say the very least. For example, I comb through hundreds of bills every day that have an impact on my home district, my community, and people that I love. I study legislation that people may never see or notice. These are bills that legislators craft with teams of policymakers and spend months perfecting. This is a side of government that the public does not see.

I see policymakers in the Capitol working every day to negotiate across the aisle to craft policy that will benefit constituents. This is not what people outside of the Capitol see. They don’t see Assemblymembers buzzing around on the floor, lobbying to get votes from their colleagues for hours on end. They don’t see the effects that a seemingly monotonous bill on water consolidation will have on a community struggling to gain access to reliable, clean drinking water. They don’t see the countless staffers researching bill after bill in order to maximize the benefits for the state of California as a whole.  My greatest takeaway from the McCarthy Fellowship thus far—California’s state government is active. I just have not been staying involved with the politics that have the potential to impact my life.

It can be hard to stay up to date with the ins and outs of policies and procedures, but it is important to try and stay informed. The resources are there and the members of the California Assembly and Senate constantly try to reach out to the constituents of their state. Additionally, legislators are consistently working to pass legislation to increase transparency and open the lines of communication between government and the people. The next step is to use the tools and resources that our government provides us.  One can tune into the Assembly floor while they’re in session and listen to the debates taking place. One can get in contact with their district representative if they’re not happy about something in their community. Getting involved is not hard, one just hard to start taking action.

If we are not informed about what is happening in the world, how can we possibly expect to enact any positive change? I cannot express how important it is to understand what is going on in our government. Not only in Sacramento, with its fast-paced politics and savvy legislators, but also in our individual communities. So the next time you feel like throwing government under the bus, try researching it. Try learning about it. Try understanding it. After all, we’re all in the same bus and who says someone has to be thrown under it?

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Meet Our 2017 McCarthy Fellows

In this summer program, McCarthy Fellows spend 12 weeks in full time internships at Sacramento institutions that contribute to the California policy-making process. Student engage in everything from conducting legislative research to responding to constituent concerns to drafting policy memos. Concurrently, they participate in a California Politics course focused on exposing and analyzing the structures and systems that frame our state’s policy making processes and helping students make meaning of their first-hand experience. Students live, work, and learn in the state capital, while taking advantage of powerful learning opportunities within the context of their internships, their academic course, and the co-curricular offerings that abound in their thriving host city.

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Abigail Fay, Politics ’18 

Abby has spent the past year as a legislative intern in the office of Supervisor and Board President London Breed. Her time there has helped her develop a passion for community development and constituent relations, as well as for the unique culture of California politics. During her time in Sacramento, she hopes to further hone her policy analyst skills and knowledge of the California legislative process to enable her to accurately represent, and advocate for the people of San Francisco.

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Arely Escoto Pineda, Political Science ’18

As a first generation college student, Arely plans to use this fellowship as a new experience to gain a greater sense of independence. She hopes to use and expand the leadership and communication skills that she has learned from working for the local government in the City of Santa Ana. Arely will use this opportunity to gain a new perspective on the inner workings of the state capital.

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Chiweta Uzoka, Politics ’18

Chiweta is looking forward to gaining more knowledge about policy-making and developing stronger communication skills in a office in which serving the public good is a priority.

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Crystal Vega, Critical Diversity Studies and Urban Studies ’18

Crystal hopes to bridge her existing knowledge of San Francisco nonprofits with her experience working in the state capitol. She is most interested in learning how to integrate intersectionality and community building into local politics.

Hallie Balch, Communication Studies, Media Studies & Political Science ’18

Hallie will be joining the McCarthy Fellows Program in Sacramento this summer to pursue a greater depth of knowledge of legislation. She plans to use this time to hone in her research skills and is excited to have the opportunity to work with her peers with similar passions and to learn from the immersive experience. Similarly, she will use her writing and analytical skills and use this program to aid her in becoming a legislative analyst.

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Kayla Derby, Sociology ’18

Kayla is excited to be working and learning in Sacramento this summer. She plans to use her writing skills and Spanish fluency to help impact public policy surrounding immigration. Kayla hopes to apply the skills she obtains over the summer in her dream career of immigration social work.

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Kelli Hughes, International Studies ’17

Kelli is looking forward to a future in public service promoting international trade and investment. While in Sacramento, Kelli hopes to use her research and analytical skills in supporting California reach its economic development goals.

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Mathew Maulino, Computer Science ’19

Matthew is excited to be a part of the 2017 McCarthy Fellows Cohort. Matthew will be working to further develop his leadership qualities, build his communication skills among a team, and foster his passion for service to his community. He is looking forward to taking full advantage of the unique opportunity the McCarthy Fellows Program offers, so that he can learn from this new experience and one day fulfill USF’s motto to “change the world from here.”

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Rachel Chin, Communication Studies ’18 

Rachel is hopes to gain the skills to help her in her career as an environmental lawyer in the future. During her time in Sacramento, she plans to learn more about her career path and bring these skills back to San Francisco.

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Maddelyn Bryan, International Studies ’18

Maddelyn is excited to build upon her skills for interpersonal engagement and research through an internship in Sacramento. She expects to gain an in-depth understanding of the California legislative process while developing field-experience relevant to a career in public service. After completing the program, she hopes to have new insight into how she can apply her skills to help resolve issues on multiple levels of society.

Our Best Summer is Yet to Be: Working for a More Equitable California

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Peter Wright
McCarthy Fellows in Sacramento Professor

For several years now, I have taught at the University of San Francisco. Like everyone else, when summer approaches, I reflect back on earlier special times at the beach or touring National Parks. This year, looking ahead, I’m thrilled to be working with the Leo T. McCarthy Center‘s McCarthy Fellows in Sacramento program, and expect it to be the best one yet.

The Fellows have chosen to spend their summer around the halls of power, learning how to shape the structures and systems that frame our state’s policy making processes, honing their abilities for critical analysis, and immersing themselves in the unique political culture of our state Capitol. Who needs the beach when we can work for a more equitable, inclusive, and vibrant California? Continue reading

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.

Seeing LGBTQ Struggles Through Assemblymember Tom Ammiano’s Eyes

Master of Arts in Urban Affairs

Chris Bardales
Master of Arts in Urban Affairs Candidate 2016

Having the opportunity as a Master of Arts in Urban Affairs student, to take part in a 2-day seminar with the iconic former Assemblymember Tom Ammiano was nothing short of extraordinary. To be in the presence of a legendary progressive activist like Tom was something I will never forget.

Tom AmmianoIn the first part of our session we watched the award winning documentary, The Times of Harvey Milk, with special commentary from Tom. Although having seen the documentary a handful of times, I am always moved to tears and never grow tired of re-learning about the historic struggles that the LGBTQ community had to endure in order for me to enjoy the privilege of rights I have today.

On the second day of our workshop, we were able to have an intimate Q&A with Tom on a variety of topics ranging from Harvey Milk, legislative policy and the gentrification of displaced communities in San Francisco’s history. With a breadth of knowledge on the history of San Francisco and an impressive resume of political achievements, it was an honor to receive such great advice from Tom. Although only lasting about three hours, I found myself thinking that I could have spent the whole day engaging in conversation with such a legend.

As part of the Harvey Milk Democratic Club, I take pride in continuing to fight for the progressive values that Harvey would be surely fighting for if he were with us today. Although our community has come along way in the past 40 years, there is still much work that needs to be done in order for all marginalized individuals to attain basic civil rights.

Tom gave me the motivation to continue fighting for the rights of all oppressed people. Thank you Tom for being a great leader, a great role model and an aspiration to us all!

Tom Ammiano