Commemorating Leo T. McCarthy’s Desk
In today’s blog, we cite the words of Conna McCarthy, daughter of Lt. Governor Leo T. McCarthy and Council Member for the City of Piedmont. Conna commemorates arrival of the Lt. Governor’s desk in the McCarthy Center and introduces Lt. Governor Eleni Koulanakis who attended the celebration in the center’s Open House last week.
“Today we install a piece of California history at this wonderful University, a place where history is remembered and examined. And we mark this day as important because we are people who honor legacy. We celebrate service. And, when we take time to do that we go home inspired to do better.
In late 2019, I received a phone call with a voice on the other end asking: “Could you please hold for the Lt. Governor?” Eleni comes on the line and tells me that she was sitting at this very large table in the Lt. Governors office, a work space much too large for her. Her father had recently visited her in Sacramento and said he recognized the desk as belonging to former Lt. Governor Leo McCarthy.
Here is where I want you to pause for a minute. Eleni could have put this desk in storage and found something more suitable for her personal needs. But she didn’t. Because Eleni understands the importance of legacy. She understands the importance of honoring the contributions of those who came before her. And my Dad was one of the people who came before her.
When Lt. Governor Kounalakis gets up to speak she will likely share with you that several California Lt. Governors sat at this desk in their Constitutional Office in the State Capital. And while that provides important historical context, there is only one Lt. Governor that I picture sitting at this desk—Leo McCarthy.
My dad loved serving the people California. He often articulated his belief that government provided the best opportunity to serve others. He would reflect on his service in the most humbling manner. He was committed to social justice, economic justice and environmental justice. The McCarthy Center is my dad’s ongoing legacy of service. It is here where students learn to create social and economic structures that respect and incorporate the needs of all people. So this desk is a backdrop in an over arching scene from from my dad’s life of service and to his ongoing legacy carried forward through the work of the McCarthy Center.
These are the shared values of Lt. Governor Kounalakis. So instead of moving an ill-fitting desk to storage, Eleni reached out to my family with a plan to bring my dad’s desk to a place that would honor his legacy. It was personal. It was about respect. It was a decision made with a first-person understanding that my family, like her family, honors legacy, sacrifice and service. This was no easy transfer of a desk from one location to another. It was 3 years of overcoming obstacles. Through a pandemic that shut down government offices and moved folks to remote working locations, construction at the state capital, and an ongoing bureaucracy of oversight, approvals and agreements. But Lt. Governor Kounalakis followed through on her promise made in late 2019 to get my dad’s desk back to the McCarthy family, and to the McCarthy Center.
With deep appreciation, we are profoundly honored to welcome California’s 50th Lt. Governor and the first woman elected Lt. Governor in California’s 172 year history: Eleni Kounalakis.
See more photos of the event in our photo album.