Navigating the Path to Common Good: The Power of Conversations

As Caitlin Kennedy took her place on the illuminated stage, the Leo T. McCarthy Center had chosen her as the student panelist for the Conversations for the Common Good event, an opportunity to engage and gain insights from the young elected officials shaping the region’s future. Sharing the stage with notable figures such as Assembly-member Alex Lee, Mayor Alexander Walker-Griffin, and Council-member Alysa Cisneros, Caitlin was struck by their remarkable dedication to public service, leaving an indelible impression. Read more about how Caitlin found herself in front of a diverse audience, both in person and nationally through YouTube and radio broadcasts. 

As I stood on stage, the bright spotlight illuminating the path ahead, I couldn’t help but feel both honored and humbled. Being chosen to represent the Leo T. McCarthy Center as the student panelist at the Conversations for the Common Good event felt incredibly surreal. The collaboration between the McCarthy Center and KQED presented a unique opportunity to not only participate in a thought-provoking dialogue but also to learn more about the young, elected officials who work to shape the future of our region. It was an exceptional privilege to share the stage with Assemblymember Alex Lee, Mayor Alexander Walker-Griffin, and Councilmember Alysa Cisneros, all remarkable young, elected officials whose dedication to public service and vision for the future left a lasting impression on me.

Being a panelist at this event was a unique experience as I had never been in front of such a wide-ranging audience. The in-person gathering brought together students, professionals, constituents, and more, making it a truly diverse and dynamic setting. The event was also broadcasted to a national audience via YouTube and radio, which expanded its reach significantly. While I found myself well beyond my comfort zone, collaborating with seasoned professional Guy Marzorati, KQED’s correspondent for California Politics and Government provided invaluable support and guidance. His wisdom and expertise played a vital role in directing my thoughts towards the core objective of the conversation and the event.

My primary goal throughout the conversation was to act as a bridge between the people in my generation and the elected officials on the panel. It’s no secret that many young individuals often feel a sense of disconnect when it comes to engagement in political or legislative processes, and those who carry out such actions, even if they are similar in age. Thus, my aim was to facilitate an open and productive dialogue that underscored that we often share more common ground than we realize. In various contexts, young people frequently face judgment and condescension not because of their accomplishments but simply due to their age. This dynamic remains consistent, even in the esteemed State Assembly. Assemblymember Alex Lee revealed that on many occasions, his more senior colleagues tend to “see their own children” in him when they adopt a dismissive attitude towards him. He sometimes has to clarify that he’s not, in fact, their son, and that he is their colleague. While this elicited laughter, it underscores a profound truth about the challenges faced by many young individuals and a common ground faced by this demographic.

As I reflect on this experience, I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to be a part of this event and to learn from the insights of the new generation of elected officials. It fills me with great optimism for the future of our region. This conversation served as an essential reminder of our shared common ground, a solid foundation that sustains us as we work to bridge generational divides, connect those in positions of influence with those building the path forward, and unite individuals in the pursuit of a more civically engaged society. The profound impact of this conversation reaffirms that together we have the power to achieve the common good.

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California policyCalifornia PoliticsCommunity Empowerment ActivistsConversations For The Common GoodEducationKQED liveleague of women voters sfLeo T. McCarthy CenterMcCarthy CenterUniversity of San Francisco

Athena Davis • November 16, 2023

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