Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Angelides visits Kennedy High School

From the LA times blog:
Angelides at Kennedy High: Cornel West and Banana Suits
In the smart-kid wing of Kennedy High School in Sacramento, the halls were empty about a half hour before state Treasurer Phil Angelides arrived this morning with his longtime friend Cornel West, the theologian and intellectual who first met Angelides when they were freshmen at Harvard. In one empty classroom, a lone teacher wearing a sweater vest carefully made his way to the whiteboard: "Write sentences with vocabulary words," he instructed.

Across the hall, students, many in costumes, filed into an Advanced Placement government class. One wore a banana suit. The student body president was dressed as a doctor, and another came as a dark angel, signaling doom. A bored-sounding student read the Pledge of Allegiance over the public address system. Hardly anyone noticed. The boy in the banana suit turned toward the U.S. flag.

Angelides and West arrived in the classroom and took their place before the students. Reporters and cameramen were in one corner near a row of books: "Ishi" and "Hiroshima." On the wall, teacher Todd Whalen kept a collection of kitschy postcards in plastic cases along with photographs of himself with students.

Angelides spoke first, mentioning a mock election of Kennedy seniors in which he beat Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger by 13 votes — 161 to 148: "I'm very honored that the students at Kennedy chose me over Arnold Schwarzenegger."

Then he pointed toward student Exie Frazier, the editor of the school newspaper, to ask the first question. Frazier spoke about "shady characters" in politics and wondered why Angelides had not fulfilled his promise from several months ago to provide students with free copies of West's books. Angelides promised her he would get the books ASAP, with his own money. His staff said the books were purchased in June and delivered today — the campaign wanted to wait until the next Angelides-West visit to deliver them.

"You know what, it would be the potential journalist who would ask that question," Angelides joked.

A student asked about Proposition 85, which would require parental notification if a minor seeks an abortion. Angelides told the students that Schwarzenegger supports it and called the initiative a right-wing plot to take away women's rights. Another student, standing in the corner, asked about the "illegal immigrant issue" and wondered what could be done about immigrants using public facilities and not paying taxes. Angelides said "we need a real border" and spoke of his immigrant mother and grandparents.

Angelides said the state would "come to a grinding halt" if immigrants were to leave, because they provide so much for the economy. West, a graduate of Kennedy High, said: "I just wish we could be as scrutinizing of corporations that often don't pay their fair share of taxes." He mentioned Jesus' admonition to focus on the least of us.

The talk soon turned to the huge amounts that state and federal governments spend on war and prisons, and not schools. "We're being stupid about this," Angelides said. "We are not investing in the front end of life and paying more for the back end."

West mentioned the disproportionate number of African Americans in prison and lamented: "Especially brothers, especially brothers."

Afterward, the two men shook hands with students, hugged each other, and went their separate ways.
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