California Secretary of State Shirley N. Weber, left, and Manual Arts High School Principal Dr. Lavon Flowers. (Brian W. Carter/L.A. Sentinel)

The Secretary of State visited her alma mater to speak about the importance of becoming a voter. 

On Thursday, May 16, California Secretary of State Shirley N. Weber, Ph.D visited her alma mater, Manual Arts High School to talk to students about the importance of becoming a registered voter.

“We’re here today because California allows you to register to vote if you’re 16-years-old,” said Weber to an auditorium of youth. “You can pre-register to vote and we will follow you and send you messages along the way to say, ‘Hey, don’t forget, elections are coming up, don’t forget, you need to vote.’”

Dr. Weber speaks with students. (Brian W. Carter/L.A. Sentinel)

It was noted, Manual Arts High School is the third high school that was built in the Los Angeles Unified School District and the oldest high school on its original campus in the District. Weber, a former Toiler, graduated from Manual Arts High School in 1966.

“There’s some old memories in this building, some very strong and powerful memories on this campus and I’m honored to be with you today,” said Weber. “All of my brothers and sisters except for one graduated from landmarks so, Manual is very dear to our heart, 45th and Broadway, walked here to school every day.”

Weber continued, “I had some of the most amazing teachers, amazing mentors, colleagues and friends that have varied over the years and so this is a very special experience for me.

“I haven’t been back probably 30 or 40 years on the campus.”

Guests included representatives from district offices including representatives from District 1 Board Member Dr. George J. McKenna III office, Los Angeles Unified Deputy Superintendent Dr. Karla Estrada, Region South Administrator of Instruction Secondary Rafael Balderas, and educator, and former principal of Manuel Arts, Dr. Robert Whitman. Weber was received by student leadership, Manual Arts Principal, Dr. Lavon Flowers, and a performance from the Manual Arts High School cheer squad and band.

“Your voice is your power, I tell young people all the time,” said Weber. (Brian W. Carter/L.A. Sentinel)

“So, first, I want to thank Dr. Webber, thank you for joining us here today but most importantly, for inspiring your work around voter registration,” said Estrada.

“We have a lot of seniors here as you know, who are preparing and embarking on a very, well-prepared journey of the next phase of their lives and voter registration and being civically engaged is such an important part of that so, thank you for honoring us by being here with us today.

“Thank you for your ongoing support of our school district and our students.”

Weber shared with the students her journey from Manual Arts to being secretary of the state. She talked about the importance of voting and the difference it can make in their community. She wanted youth to know that they have power.

“It’s really important that people who live in this community and communities similar to this, around the state, to actually vote,” said Weber.

“Your voice is your power, I tell young people all the time, your parents tell you that, ‘This is my house, and you can’t do da-da-da’ but, one thing I know what happens is when they go in that voting booth, they are as powerful as I am.

“They get one vote, I maybe Secretary of State, in charge of 40 million Californians, but I get one vote and each one of you will have an opportunity to have one vote and that vote is powerful.”

Weber visited with students in class where she met a young, clothing entrepreneur with an LLC. She met with another class in the midst of giving business presentations. When asked about the importance of voting in the midst of a polarizing, political climate, Weber shared this is the time to be heard.

“You know there are a lot of naysayers out there who want to attack democracy, who are loud and boisterous about it, that’s why it’s so important for those of us who believe in democracy, who believe in the right to vote, who believe in this country, regardless with all of its flaws—with all of its flaws, it’s not a perfect place, but we have to vote because this is the best kind of government in the world.

“We need to understand to not let people drown us out, but to be present because the way you get rid of the noise is you silence them by your action and so we want everyone to vote.”

“It was an amazing day, I love seeing the faces of the students and to hear the stories that she had about the school and her experiences here and how that led her to the path of greatness that she’s in today,” said Flowers.

“For our students to know that you can come from different aspects of life and that does not limit you, was a wonderful thing for our students to hear and for them to share their experience here was amazing as well.”

Weber spoke about why voting is so important to her and that a lot of it has to do with her family’s history.

“Our house was a polling place, you don’t see that these days,” said Weber. “When you went to vote, we didn’t have church, we didn’t have a school that would let us into the auditorium, you didn’t have a rec center in the community so, what we did, in those days, people volunteered their homes as polling places.”

Weber continued, “My mother was a poll leader her entire life, from the time she came to California, until she passed away. She believed in voting, my dad believed in voting, why? Because without the vote, they were powerless in Arkansas.

“They couldn’t pick the people they wanted to lead them, they couldn’t participate in the process or anything and as a result of that, my family, all of my brothers and sisters, we are voters.”

When asked what was her favorite subject when she was at Manual Arts, Weber replied, “Mathematics.”

“When I went to UCLA, they made me a math major even though I didn’t want to be a math major, but they looked at my data and said, ‘Oh you’re in the 97th percentile in math on the SAT, you must be a math major.’

“I liked people more than I liked math, but that was my favorite subject.

“I loved it and I enjoyed it immensely.”

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