El Dorado County Democrats have a chance to ice down the party’s black eye in the wake of the arrest of California State Senator Leland Yee by attending what promises to be an uplifting luncheon Saturday, April 5 at the El Dorado County Office of Education.
The occasion is to honor the three winners of the annual Fred Winn Democratic Party Essay Contest, and local Democrats are sure to come away inspired by the trio of youngsters who wrote their award-winning opinion pieces in the annual contest sponsored by the Democrats of El Dorado County.
First place winner Sanjay Raavi, a junior at Oak Ridge High School in El Dorado Hills, won $1,500 for penning the top essay, with students asked to write on: “What do you believe is the biggest single threat to our democracy?”
Sanjay’s essay was cogent and well researched, according to the judges, focusing on the gargantuan role large corporations play in national politics, with what Sanjay contends is too much power wielded by political action committees and private interest groups.
Misleading advertising and slanted news stories due to corporate influence, Sanjay argues, have left the voting public with a jaundiced view of their government, and in fact have disenfranchised many into not exercising that most important privilege at the polls.
From Sanjay’s essay: “Because more American citizens feel misinformed, they tend to abstain from voting. Private interest groups are inundating news sources with false, negative advertising that only serves to lower voter turnout … corporate presence in the election process is clearly making money more important than people in democracy, which is a flagrant violation of basic American principles.”
Sanjay begins his work with an interesting anecdote about a man in San Jose stopped by police for driving solo in a car-pool lane, with the driver telling authorities he had two persons in his car because he had corporate papers with him inside the vehicle. His logic was born of the legal concept of “corporate personhood,” stemming from a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that a corporation is legally considered a person.
The son of Ravindra and Sreedevi Raavi, Sanjay said his history class at Oak Ridge this year helped him with his winning analysis piece, saying the class “has provided me with insights about economic, political and social aspects about this country.”
“It has also changed my views on many issues and events in history that are commonly perceived in a particular way by society,” Sanjay added.
The 11th-grader said he also is inspired by world leaders, past and present, including President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi “for their brave efforts to rid society of moral ills.”
Trio of winners
Joining Sanjay at the Saturday luncheon will be second- and third-place winners, Danay Nipar from Golden Sierra High and Karina Kauffman from Oak Ridge. Danay earned $750 for second place, while Karina’s efforts brought $500.
The annual contest was open to all junior and senior students from public high schools in El Dorado County.
As if the enthusiasm and impressive works of the high school students weren’t enough to cheer up the Democrats, the featured guest speaker at the April 5 luncheon will be Jon Waldie, chief administrative officer of the California State Assembly.
Waldie is the son of the late Jerry Waldie, a former U.S Congressman who died in 2009. Jerry Waldie was a staunch, humorous and lovable politician (not always mutually exclusive) whose wit and kindness left a lasting impression on Democrats, Republicans and virtually everyone he met during his years living locally, making his home with wife Joanne in Pleasant Valley.
Jon Waldie said his father’s influence had “everything” to do with him choosing the course of his career.
“My father’s influence was 100 percent why I chose public service — it was the only option I ever considered, even with a law degree,” said the 30-year resident of El Dorado.
He and wife Kathy have raised three daughters who attended local schools, and he said it is important to him to “encourage young public policy dreamers to realize their dreams.”
Jon has served 17 years as CAO of the state Assembly and has been associated with that body for 34 years (“56 years, if you include the fact that I was 2 when my dad was first elected to the Assembly in 1958″).
Jon said his comments at the upcoming luncheon will involve a message of steadfastly meeting personal and professional goals.
“I will talk about staying engaged at whatever you do in life and striving to make the best of every day,” he said. “I also would like to mention my absolute joy in seeing high school students be able to write such impressive essays without a phone or using just their thumbs,” he joked.
Jon added that he hopes to field “a whole lot of questions, if all goes well,” on whatever topic the audience may wish to pursue. “I really prefer that to prepared speaking.”
Chances are that the arrest of Sen. Yee, along with the legal troubles of Democratic state Senators Ron Calderon and Roderick Wright, both of whom also have come under fire this year, will be discussed.
Waldie has no qualms about the subject.
“I am a Democrat and proud of it,” he said. “The issues in the Senate stem from individuals who lost their direction to improve the lives of their constituents and believed they were somehow above the law. That flaw is not limited to a political party but is systemic to power.”
Asked how he would answer the same question posed to the young essay contestants, Waldie said, “That’s easy — failure to participate in the process, elections in particular, makes your voice mute. You lose the proverbial right to complain if you didn’t participate in the election prior to the action you are complaining about.
“In my upbringing, you either voiced your concern and had to defend it or you lost your chance to change the direction of the issue.”
Jon said his upbringing by Joanne and Jerry, where “you almost always lost when you debated with my parents,” helped him to learn to articulate his positions and “is so valid in my work today.”
Be sure to catch this bright spot on the Democratic horizon by attending the April 5 luncheon, starting at noon, in the board room (B-2) at the Office of Education, 6767 Green Valley Road in Placerville.
Cost is $17 for a buffet dining experience billed as “superb,” with limited seating. Call Mel Chapman at 530-621-0409 to make a reservation.