CAN-DO Founder Amy Ralston Povah attended (D-CA) Congressman Ted Lieu’s Swearing in Ceremony on Sunday, March 1 at UCLA’s prestigious Royce Hall.
Directly after “God Bless America,” and before Lieu took the stage, the fire alarm went off and to everyone’s dismay, attendees were told it was not a drill and that everyone had to evacuate the building, forcing nearly 1,000 people out into the rain (yes, one of the few rainy days we’ve had this year) while firefighters investigated.
This provided Amy with an opportunity to mingle with the VIP section that included dozens of elected officials from various parts of the 33rd Congressional District, including Representatives Maxine Waters, Karen Bass, and Xavier Becerra, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, plus Oscar-winner Tim Robbins.
Amy thanked Tim Robbins, (who spoke previous to the fire alarm) for his Prison Reform activism. Robbins credited Lieu for reinstating much needed funds to California state prisoners, who had lost funding for critical programs, including a prison theatre program that Robbin is artistic director of called The Actor’s Gang. The Actor’s Gang conducts at least three 8-week workshops inside the California prison system. This program reduces in-prison violence, increases self esteem and tolerance, and reduces recidivism. Amy also took this opportunity to tell Robbins she was a clemency recipient and gave him a CAN-DO newsletter.
While returning to Royce Hall, Amy had an opportunity to speak with Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who has supported clemency for several people, including Kemba Smith, who was pardoned by Clinton and
Clarence Aaron, who was pardoned by President Obama. Having met Representative Waters in D.C. soon after she was released Amy gave Waters a CAN-DO newsletter and they discussed the CAN-DO mission, which Waters wanted to know more about.
Congresswoman Maxine Waters praised Lieu when she took the stage and called him “the real deal,” adding that she, “looked forward to working with Congressman Lieu to create jobs, protect the environment and help veterans.”
Firefighters eventually announced that it was a false alarm, and that someone had pulled it from the basement. No doubt, a college dare or prank, possibly the Bruin Republicans, some mused. Audience members filed back into the hall in a mere 12 minutes and enjoyed the balance of the ceremony that included a inspirational speech from congressman Lieu.
Lieu reflected upon his life and how his family represented the American dream. Born in Taiwan, Lieu immigrated to Cleveland, Ohio where his family operated a gift store and then expanded to six locations. Following his relocating to California, Lieu served as Democratic Freshman Class President of the House and a Torrance City Councilman.
Lieu spoke about his support for plans to house homeless veterans on the West L.A. Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s land and also promised “to pass a constitutional amendment to repeal the Supreme Court decision,” he said, referring to the 2010 Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission decision that stated that “corporations are people.” Also noteworthy was his statement, “Generations come and generations yet to come is a story of immigrants. My parents achieved the American Dream, which is one reason I choose to remain in the reserves at an Air Force base in Los Angeles. They were risk takers and worked hard to succeed. That’s why we need comprehensive immigration reform.”
CAN-DO looks forward to working with Lieu and will be in touch with his staff in the coming weeks, to learn more about his views on our current drug laws and criminal justice reform. CAN-DO will also spotlight some of the prisoner’s profiles on the CAN-DO website in an effort to gain Lieu’s support for their freedom through the Presidential Pardon process.
Performers who entertained at the event included Eric Hsu – the lead singer for Johnny Hi Fi and The New Directions Veterans Choir, a group of former homeless veterans who turned their lives around through song. The Veterans performed a Military Medley, a capella, adding goosebumps to the rousing rendition of the signature songs of the military as veterans in the audience stood as their identifying song came up.