The group asked me to speak tonight and I did on re-imagining Long Beach. Below is my speech:
Thank you so much for inviting me tonight.
When Stephanie asked me to speak I immediately panicked thinking I would have to discuss a complex topic such as the 2700 pages of the Patient Protection Act and Affordable Care Act. Please don’t tell my students in my legal class at CSULB that I haven’t read the entire law yet...
I was relieved when she told me I could talk about Long Beach...or better yet...how to Re Imagine Long Beach.
I love Long Beach. I was born here over on 7th Street at what was once the US Naval Hospital.
My parents came here by chance. My dad who was from New Jersey was 18 and in the Marines when he met my mom at the Pike in 1947. My mom was 17 and had come here with her family of 13 to escape the poverty of a coal mining town in Pennsylvania. They married in 1949 at St. Lucy’s on our Westside.
My maternal grandmother was a Gold Star mother and lived on Santa Fe Avenue.
As a kid we shopped on Pine Avenue and only subscribed to the Independent Press Telegram when we moved to Orange County.
I came back to Long Beach in 1977 by choice – having worked for the CIA and then the US Congress. Since then I have been involved in one way or another with Long Beach – met my partner, Flo Pickett here and we will be celebrating our 33rd year together. Adopted our three children. Served in public office and appointive office here. Worked in our local hospitals as a Registered Nurse. Opened a law practice downtown. Taught at CSULB. And proudly wrote three books on the history of Long Beach.
So Long Beach is a topic near and dear to my heart.
You know the bible says at Proverbs 29:18 – where there is no vision, the people perish..and so I want to talk a moment to talk about how we as women lawyers can re-imagine, and put forth a vision of how we can make Long Beach the best city it deserves to be.
Before I start -- Let me give you some numbers I want you to remember – and for those of us who are in advancing years – this is a test often given in a doctor’s office.
25, 55, 60 and 22.
Repeat after me: 25, 55, 60 and 22.
From the very beginning, people have migrated to this area – this town we call Long Beach because of the opportunities it offers. Our native settlers – the Tongva now known as the gabriellenos – flourished here because of the abundance of fish in our ocean and fresh water in our artesian wells and the small game that lived among the grasses that grew tall. The tongva in fact located one of their holy places over what is now Rancho Los Alamitos.
The Mexicans and then the Spanish treasured this land because it nourished cattle and provided wide open spaces for farming.
When the Civil War ended in this country, thousands traveled by train to settle in what was first called American colony, then Willmore City and then Long Beach in hopes of a healthier environment, a chance to grow citrus crops and an opportunity to make their fortunes with land development. That is why Long Beach has more than 1500 Civil War veterans buried in the two cemeteries on Willow and Orange.
A woman came and offered to install electricity in 1895. She did and then went on to construct the electrical system for the state of Arizona. A giant in the ship building industry relocated from Toledo Ohio in the early 1900s which spurred the development of a port and the interest of the US Navy. We were known as the fastest growing city in the US.
The Walk of a Thousand Lights and electric trolleys attracted visitors and real estate buyers. Shortly after, Pres Theodore Roosevelt sent the Great White Fleet to visit and Long Beach turned out 50,000 strong to show its support.
Our long beach accommodated the early aviators and the first transcontinental flight landed over near Seaside and Linden in 1911. Amelia Earhart learned how to fly solo and do aerobatics in Long Beach. Charles Lindbergh often visited as stayed at the Wilton.
The The discovery of oil 1921 gave this city a wealth unknown to local government. It brought thousands in search of work and wealth and the city expanded facilities and opportunities. The possibilities were endless.
When the US Army decided to build Douglas Aircraft in the late 1930s, thousands more flocked to the city looking for that opportunity. More than 45,000 people worked each day building airplanes and 10,000 building ships. The war brought even more and when it was over people stayed.
Long Beach went through a series of transitions as the military eventually left. We lost a shipyard, a naval station and a naval hospital. Commercial aviation could not take up the slack and so many people left to Long Beach by choice and by chance.
In the 1970s, rezoning allowed the building of cheap, over sized apartment complexes which destroyed our neighborhoods.
The riots in 1992 brought home the fact that the City failed to deal with the racism that had been an under current in this town for many years. After all this city sent more Japanese to the camps than any other. It segregated its African Americans to one specific area of the city and allowed the Klu Klux Klan to parade on Ocean and meet in its municipal auditorium.
So we have slowly recovered and improved– much more slowly than other cities because the lack of a wide job base. Our school system has been recognized for its excellence and once again tourists are coming from all over the US to see this magnificent city by the sea flanked by our Aquarium. Last weekend, thousands came to watch our Grand Prix.
So remember those numbers I gave you a few minutes ago: 25, 55, 60 and 22
Let’s talk about what they mean.
25 is the percentage of people living in Long Beach at or below the poverty level.
55 is the percentage of children living in Long Beach at or below the poverty level.
60 is the percentage of violent crimes committed in Long Beach are committed in three areas of the City – Downtown, Central and North Long Beach.
22 is the percentage of people in Long Beach who vote in a City wide election – that amounts to about 33,000 out of 450,000 residents and out of 191,000 registered voters who bother to vote and the majority of these voters don’t live the areas of the city impacted by violence and poverty.
So if I were to reimagine Long Beach – I would envision a city that utilizes the talents and gifts of everyone to make this city the best it deserves to be and ask them to strive to be the voice of those who have given up trying.
You don’t need to be a genius to look at those numbers to see the connection between poverty and crime and lack of civic engagement. We can’t afford to live in a city that is this divided. I don’t want to live in a city that is so divided and we need to find a way to bring it together.
So as I stand before you, I would say that you perhaps more than any other organization have the opportunity to help with this vision. You all – we all as lawyers have been given an incredible gift and talent – that is the law. We know it. We know how to utilize it. We know how powerful it is.
I am asking all of you to find one thing that you can do to make this city better. Just one thing. Doesn’t have to be big – because often it is the little things that matter the most. But please walk out of here with those numbers in your head and think of one thing you can do to change those numbers.
I am not a religious person – but I would say that my patron saint of re-imaging a situation and making it better – would be St. Francis of Assisi who lived in the late 1100’s. He was the son of a wealthy merchant and according to the Catholic encyclopedia was: Handsome, gay, gallant, and courteous.
He also did what most young adults do – he rebelled against his father’s wealth and gave it away. (I have to tell you I so hoped my kids would rebel and become rich..but oh well.)
Francis gave away everything and worked among the poor. His girlfriend, Clare, also dedicated herself to acts of charity and both became the founders of religious orders..and by the way never married.
He became beloved for his work among the poor, his spirit of humility and his peacemaking – he refused to go to war. We know him today as the person who also loved animals and blessed them and for introducing the crèche – the nativity scene at Christmas.
But what I also know him most for is his peace prayer – a prayer I keep on my computer at home and that I feel re-imagines and provides a vision for all of us of how things can be –
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving, that we receive
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
It is in dying that we are born again.