Letter to the Editor: Appreciation for local leaders

Dear Editor:

You never realize how lucky you are until you share experiences with another person who has it different from you.

I was fortunate enough to have a moment of reflection where I realized how proud and lucky I am to live in such a great, forward-thinking state where everyone wants equality and opportunity for everyone. Last week, I had the privilege of attending the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) Leadership Conference in Washington D.C. through a scholarship that was awarded to me from the CHCI. 

The people and the topics of discussion were both amazing and inspiring. Both ranging from individuals such as Congressman Joaquin Castro, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, motivational speakers JR Martinez and Julissa Arce and discussions covering Diversity in Media and Entertainment, Increasing College Degrees and Certificate Attainment, Artificial Intelligence, and Diabetes in the Hispanic Community.

My two favorite panels in particular were the Diversity in Media and Entertainment where we got to hear many VP’s of large organizations, including actor Danny Trejo speak about how they bring about a more diverse entertainment community; the other was the Diabetes in the Hispanic Community, where through the Q & A portion I was able to share my recent experiences in Cuba and a glimpse of their health care that they provide. 

I learned so much from the panels and guest speakers, but what I was not expecting was to truly appreciate the things and people that I take for granted back home, particularly our publically elected officials. During the moments of down time, I took this opportunity to network and meet other people attending the Conference. 

There were two particular individuals from different states that I got to know really well. We became very comfortable talking about ideologies, and one of them asked about protesting in California, specifically, “if it happens all the time.” I laughed, and replied, “I wouldn’t say all the time, but enough to where it’s not an uncommon occurrence.”

I was then asked a follow up question to that by the second individual, which stopped to make me think. “How does the community feel when they see these protestors?” I stopped to think for a few moments, as I was not expecting that question, but just making sure I was getting the right words for the obvious answer, I replied, “Generally, we are supportive of the people protesting because they’re doing it for a noble and worthy cause, for equality, or to call out an injustice. So when we hear or see protestors, we know they’re doing it to fight to make California a better place for everyone, and when you look at it that way, why wouldn’t you support them? Some of our elected officials can even be seen walking with protestors because they believe in the cause and support their diverse communities that they represent.” 

I saw a look of awe and admiration for what I had just said. After a few moments of silence, one of the individuals replied, “I wish it was like that where I am from.” At that moment, I realized how lucky I was to live in California, where we protect those who need protection, or fight for the equal rights of those who lack the same opportunities that others have. 

To quote President John F. Kennedy, “Freedom has many difficulties, and democracy is not perfect”, but knowing that I live in a state where not only the community rallies together to support one another and for what is right, but my elected officials do the same, makes me proud to live in this great state.

I want to thank the community I live in for supporting all people of California and for striving towards equality, but I want to give specific shout outs to Assemblymember Cristina Garcia and Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard because I know and see that they truly have their constituents and the people of California’s best interest at heart. Thank you to you both for all that you do and all that you continue to fight for, and for making me proud to say, “I’m a Californian.”

Art Montoya