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Public Policy Day in Sacramento 2024

By Yoo Ra Sung, 2024

The students enrolled in the winter course, PUBLPOL 154: Politics and Policy in California, had the exceptional opportunity to visit the California State Capitol in Sacramento for a day-long excursion filled with one-on-one meetings, panel discussions, and extemporaneous conversations with elected officials, members of the media, and key government staff. Led by instructors, Former Assembly Member Joe Nation, and Govern For California President and Advisor to Arnold (“Governator”) Schwarzenegger, David Crane, the group gained remarkable insight and exposure to the joys and challenges of the policymaking process.

After being welcomed to the Assembly Floor by Chief Clerk Sue Parker and hearing from Majority Leader Cecilia Aguilar-Curry, the group engaged in a media panel session featuring H.D. Palmer (DOF Spokesperson), Ashley Zavala (Hearst Media Group), and Laurel Rosenhall (LA Times). Hearing about the challenges of gaining access to the Assembly Floor and the need for media coverage as an accountability mechanism in government was a direct contrast to lunchtime speaker Jim DeBoo, former Chief of Staff to Governor Newsom, who described the reactive nature of legislature and the confluence of politics and policy. Students appreciated DeBoo’s no-nonsense, direct perspective on the role of media and flow of politics in California.

Afternoon engagements continued with an hour and a half long candid conversation with Governor Gavin Newsom. Students were impressed by Governor Newsom’s charisma and extensive knowledge, asking questions about a wide range of issues ranging from homelessness and retail crime to gas prices and climate change. 

Personal conversations with Assemblymembers Matt Haney, Jim Wood, Jesse Gabriel and Senator Ben Allen provided further dimension to the realities and challenges of day to day policymaking. The day concluded with a career panel with several notable government staff, who shared their perspectives not only on their professional path to working at the capitol, but also the personal cost and involvement of prioritizing a career in government.

The group departed Sacramento after a 14 hour day, feeling exhausted, but leaving with a rewarding and inspiring experience. This behind the scenes access to the heart of California politics provided students with the opportunity to get their voices heard. Not only that, it also provided a rare networking opportunity – opening the door to see more Stanford alumni leading California into the future.