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Robert Garcia Blazes New Trail in Long Beach

November 21, 2014
by Jeremy Loudenback

Mayor Robert Garcia, speaking to students, faculty, and community members November 11th Lunch with a Leader event at USC. Photo credit: Deirdre Flanagan

Mayor Robert Garcia, speaking to students, faculty, and community members November 11th Lunch with a Leader event at USC. Photo credit: Deirdre Flanagan

It’s clear that even after a historic election victory in June, not everybody is ready for Robert Garcia, Long Beach’s first Latino and openly gay mayor as well as the youngest person to ever hold the position.

“I just had a breakfast meeting where someone thought I was the waiter and they were meeting me for lunch,” Garcia recently recalled. “They said, ‘Oh, can you take my order?’ And I said, ‘You know, I’m Robert Garcia.  I’m here to meet you.’”

Despite some wince-worthy moments along the way, Garcia has handled a tough city campaign and the responsibilities of his new office with the candor, grace, and aplomb of someone much older than his 36 years. Last week, Garcia visited the Bedrosian Center’s Lunch for a Leader series to provide special insight into his unlikely ascension to the mayor’s office after a hard-fought campaign, how his age helps his communicate with Long Beach residents, and his education-based initiatives aimed at tackling the city high poverty rates.

An immigrant who came to the United States at age 5, Garcia shared an inspiring story of perseverance and achievement with students, faculty, and practitioners at Tuesday’s event. He found an affinity in the world of education from an early age, and over the course of his career, Garcia’s earned a master’s degree in communication management from the USC Annenberg School of Communication and a doctorate in higher education from California State University at Long Beach. (He also teaches at USC Annenberg, the USC Price School of Public Policy, California State University, Long Beach, and Long Beach City College.) But it was also at a university where he first tried his hand at politics on a whim and discovered important mentors among his professors that set him on a path toward public service. (more…)


Talking 21st Century Storytelling with LeVar Burton

November 19, 2014
by Justine Dodgen and Raphael Bostic

Reading Rainbow’s LeVar Burton

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Photo credit: Reading Rainbow https://www.readingrainbow.com/

One in four children in America is functionally illiterate, according to LeVar Burton, host and executive producer of the well-known children’s show, Reading RainbowMany recent studies have pointed out that America has fallen from the top ranks of educational standards, now lagging behind in core subjects like math, science, and reading. With students seeming less and less prepared for higher education and jobs every year, there has been a large push in the policy arena to improve education standards, with the somewhat contested Common Core State Standards* initiative at the forefront.

When Reading Rainbow went off air in 2009, LeVar Burton saw an opportunity in re-launching Reading Rainbow as a tool for learning in the 21st century.  With business partner Mark Wolfe, Burton bought the rights to the Reading Rainbow brand and founded RRKidz, Inc.  with the mission of providing engaging reading activities to every web-connected child. In 2012, the company released a Reading Rainbow app, which contains e-books, Reading Rainbow’s video field trips, and a reading reward system. Earlier this year, Burton launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund expansion of the app and a new web platform, a classroom version with supplemental teacher resources, and subsidies so that schools in need can use these materials at no cost. The Kickstarter campaign received an overwhelmingly positive response and raised more than 5 million dollars, reaching the fist million in less than 24 hours. (more…)


Is Tunisia the first democratic Arab country?

November 14, 2014
by Justine Dodgen

The Islamist Ennahda party holds a large rally in the Mediterranean port city of Sfax in southeast Tunisia. Photo credit: Atlantic Council via photopin cc

The Islamist Ennahda party holds a large rally in the Mediterranean port city of Sfax in southeast Tunisia. Photo credit: Atlantic Council via photopin cc

On October 26, Tunisia held free and fair elections to choose a new representative parliament for the first time since the Jasmine Revolution occurred in 2011. More than half of Tunisia’s population voted among thousands of candidates from more than 100 political parties for the People’s Assembly’s 217 seats.

The Nidaa Tounes (Call for Tunisia) party, a secular party that ran on an explicitly anti-Islamist platform, won the most seats, winning 85 seats and the right to select the prime minister and lead a coalition government. The Ennahda party, which held the majority in parliament for the past three years on a moderate Islamism platform, came in second with 69 seats. With presidential elections scheduled for November 23, Tunisia is entering a new period of state building, and many are calling Tunisia the first democratic county in the Arab region. (more…)


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