On Sunday, January 29, about 500 people crowded into the auditorium of Agoura High School Performing Arts Center to witness the community swearing-in ceremony for Henry Stern, our new state senator for the 27th District. He was officially sworn in on December 5, 2016, in Sacramento.
Raising his right hand and placing his left hand on a borrowed book of California’s constitutional laws and codes, Stern took the oath of office with the Honorable Goodwin H. Liu, Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court, administering the oath.
A week after President Trump was inaugurated, after the Women’s March went global, that week when the new president threatened to sanction “Sanctuary States,” the atmosphere at this event was buzzing with optimism, determination and confidence in the man whose voice as a senator would be amplified by the voice of the people.
Acting as Master of Ceremonies was Stern’s father, actor Daniel Stern, who said, “Today is about where Henry Stern, a sixth-generation Californian, came from, how he got here and how we move forward together.”
Guest speakers exemplified goals of environmental sustainability, clean energy, diversity and unified resistance to threats from the new administration and to rumblings for California to secede from the United States (CALExit).
Opening the ceremony with a Chumash Ceremonial blessing was Mati Waiya, Chumash Ceremonial Elder and founder of the Wishtoyo Foundation, a non-profit organization that protects Chumash Native American culture and the environment all people depend upon. “We are practitioners of nature, not environmentalists,” said Waiya in his remarks.
On a theme of “How Golden Can California Be,” Congresswoman Julia Brownley (26th AD) advocated for “radical hope,” when she declared, “No CALExit! California truly is the golden state because it has always led the way and the nation, indeed the world have, sooner or later, followed. California,” she said, “is the innovator down to its core, that not only sees the future but grabs it and leads us into that future.”
“Henry Stern is blessed to govern in tumultuous times,” said State Treasurer Henry Chiang. “This is a time to preserve our future. We are talking about sustainable governing…for eternity.”
Senator Stern’s mentor and predecessor, Senator Fran Pavley, proudly passed the torch to her successor. “Being a state senator in California is one of the best positions on the planet. Our policies matter and reach beyond our borders,” she said.
In 2011, she recruited Stern, who was working with U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman in Washington D.C., to help her and Governor Brown dig out of the recession. “One phone call from my chief of staff and he was here in two weeks,” Pavley said. “You will be carrying the torch for your generation.”
Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon could not contain his admiration for Sen. Pavley, calling her “an icon that resonates beyond this nation. This woman from the San Fernando Valley will make history.”
Continuing, he said, “I have never been so proud to be a senator, especially after this election. What we do is unmatched. We celebrate diversity, we don’t deport it. We believe in facts and science, not alternative facts. With Henry Stern in the senate, we will not lift one finger to help Donald Trump to separate one single person. California must always be a refuge and America’s exceptional example.”
Senator Ben Allen, a long-time friend of Stern, reminisced about their days in law school: “Our constitutional law professor told me that it never occurred to him that two of his students would become state senators. My ask of you today,” he said, “is that you [his constituents] challenge him…and lift him up.”
After taking the oath of office, a standing ovation rang through the hall as Stern took the podium. “I cannot adequately describe the depth of gratitude I feel today,” he began. “This is quite a gathering of the spirit of democracy right here in Agoura Hills. The weight of my family’s heritage of public service goes back generations before me. There is a social compact that every generation must take up and have a compact with the next generation to promise to renew that dedication and faith.
“The constitution lives; it’s not static but it can be diminished unless we breathe life into it. We are going to face a serious test. When I swore that oath, it was a single act. Now I need your oath and you need to tell me how you are going to put that oath to work. We won’t be quiet. We are going to use the real power and channel that voice. We are rising.
“Let’s get to work!”
Senator Stern is the first millennial elected to the State Senate. He chairs the Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee and serves on Energy, Utilities and Communications; Environmental Qualifty; Judiciary; and Natural Resources and Water.