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2017 Zale Lecture: Willie L. Brown, Jr.

Willie L. Brown, Jr.
Jun 1 2017


The Stanford Public Policy Program hosted the Honorable Willie L. Brown, Jr., for the 2017 Zale Lecture. Since 1980, the Morris B. and Edna Zale Lectureship, initially made possible by a gift from the Morris B. and Edna Zale Foundation, seeks to bring leading figures from a broad spectrum of public and private life for a lecture open to the Stanford Public Policy community. The Lectureship has hosted such distinguished speakers as George Shultz, Lewis Branscomb, Mark McClellan, Robert Reischauer, and Christina Romer.


Brown delivered an insightful lecture chronicling his observation of the rise of Trump. He recounted the moments during the election season that moved a Trump presidency from a possibility to an unfortunate certainty. He noted Trump’s ability to command the public’s attention and white backlash as two driving forces of his victory.


Following his assessment of Trump’s ascendance to the White House, Brown offered strategies for Democrats, and Trump opponents more broadly, to adopt in order to regain control of the federal government during mid-term elections. The Trump administration is indeed dangerous to our political institutions, Brown argued, but it is not deadly.


In a lively question and answer session, Brown offered to answer questions about anything on students’ minds. He answered questions ranging from the Bay Area housing crisis to affirmative action in higher education to ending police violence. Brown stressed the need to focus on desired outcomes rather than adhering to processes that fail to get things done.


Brown is a perfect recipient of the Zale Award for Public Service because of his decades-long political career in service to the betterment of California. It was so important for the Stanford Public Policy community to host Brown because he provides an example of Black political power, an image that is entirely missing from the Public Policy curriculum. Regarded as one of the most brilliant political minds of the late 20th century, Brown exemplifies the possibility of working within the current, unjust system in order to subvert the status quo and champion just policy solutions.

By Gabriella I. Johnson, '17

Student Voices