“If California Forward can continue to fight those battles there's no question in my mind that the dream of my parents for a better life will become real for our young people in the future.”
Those words from former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as he accepted the first-ever Forward Thinker Award from CA Fwd, which held its tenth anniversary celebration in San Francisco last week.
Panetta, a founding co-chair of CA Fwd, believes the era of reform in California is far from complete.
“Is it over?” he asked. “Not by a long shot. There are a lot of things still to be focused on but we've made giant steps in the right direction.”
Watch the entire Panetta speech, which also touched on the current national political scene:
California Forward has been at the center of some significant change in how California governs itself. To check out those significant accomplishments, read CA Fwd: Fixing California — Then and Now.
Not resting on those achievements, the work continues. In a letter that thousands of Californians will receive this week, CA Fwd CEO Jim Mayer outlined some of the work that has CA Fwd currently engaged.
As managing partner of the California Economic Summit, CA Fwd is working to restore upward mobility – by fortifying workforce development programs so one million more Californians can make more than minimum wage, by reforming housing policy so one million more working families can live in affordable homes, and by promoting a water supply that sustains California’s future.
And just last week, CA Fwd convened political reform experts from across the nation to launch a network of change agents who want to accelerate collective efforts to fix the electoral process so that every vote counts and elected leaders are more responsive to the people.
“CA Fwd surpassed significant milestones working with county partners to reorient criminal justice systems and deploy cost-effective approaches to confronting crime, violence and substance abuse. We are particularly proud to work with local officials to improve response to those suffering from mental illness.”
“California Forward has blazed a trail over the last 10 years. The future is brighter for our state as a result of the work of California Forward,” said former Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin in a video interview with Leon Panetta and CA Fwd after the reform-focused 50 State Solution event in January.
Connecting reform work in California to the rest of the country, Panetta said he believes what has happened in California can be instructive for national leaders in Washington D.C.
“The commitment of California Forward has been to lead the effort to create a political environment that will produce Republican and Democratic leaders,” said Panetta. “What path we take will be determined by how we govern ourselves or how we fail to govern ourselves. It's that simple.”