Passion, community engagement and involvement were the messages given to those who gathered at last weekend’s second annual United Latinos Voter Empowerment Forum at Sacramento State University.
State and local leaders spoke on issues that affect the Latino community and encouraged people to remember that the community at large is also their community.
Ami Bera, candidate for the 1st Congressional district, urged students in the audience to become politically active, reminding them that the future is theirs to own.
Former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso got the crowd laughing and cheering as he quoted an old aphorism: people should get involved, because “politics is too important to be left to politicians.”
Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna said people must have political passion year-round, not just during campaign season or only on issues seen as directly affecting Latinos.
“Recently it’s been the new census numbers or the immigration bill in Arizona that gets people involved, but every day you should be as active as when there’s egregious information out.”
He said voters shouldn’t wait to be told that something is a Latino issue in order to want to be a part of it.
“Regardless of the community you’re a part of, whether it’s Latino or Asian or Pacific Islander, we’re all going to be affected by things such as the general plan and flood protection. Those issues are always going to be at issue to all of us, Latinos included,” said Serna.
Grantland Johnson, former regional director with the US Department of Health and Human Services took the involvement discussion to the next level, by coaching the crowd on how to be successful when running for local office.
“As elected officials we should not let people put us in boxes, where we only represent African American or Latino communities, or issues associated with those ethnicities,” said Johnson. “Think of Bob Matsui. He didn’t just represent Japanese voters, but was for everyone. Joe Serna was not just representing the Latino population. He represented everyone. They set the standards.”
Responding to an instant electronic polling system, a majority of the audience identified education as the most important social issue, followed by the economy, social justice and health care. 65% cited lack of time as their greatest barrier to being more active in their community. 54% said an important issue would motivate them to become engaged.
92% of the audience indicated that government is very important to their lives, and there was 100% consensus in the room that government should be more accountable to its constituents.