The letter from San Francisco children’s advocate Jim Steyer sounded foreboding: “Our kids have been exposed to bullying, insults, hateful language, fearmongering and even discussions about private parts. Enough is enough.”
Steyer, the founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, was talking about the presidential campaign.
And in his two-page letter to the moderators of Sunday’s second presidential debate, CNN’s Anderson Cooper and ABC’s Martha Raddatz, Steyer said the primary audience for these debates should be families, so “let’s force candidates to be respectful — not just toward each other but to the issues they are discussing, from immigration to foreign policy.”
Steyer’s proposals to the moderators: Even though kids can’t vote, invite a group to watch so they can learn how democracy works. Make a statement at the beginning of the debate that “kids and families are watching and that the candidates’ comments should reflect that.”
And he wants the candidates to be asked a question about children’s issues, such as “What would you do in your first hundred days to ensure that our children have what they need to be successful and compete with their peers around the world?”
Steyer, it should be noted, has long ties to the Clintons. He’s known Hillary Clinton for more than three decades — since she worked for the Children's Defense Fund — and he hired Chelsea Clinton to be a teaching assistant when she was a student at Stanford University, where he has taught for more than 25 years.
"Children of Poverty"
"Children of Poverty." a documentary film written and produced in part by political science lecturer Jim Steyer, will air Saturday night on San Francisco's KGO-TV. channel 7.
"Poverty Is the root cause of most crime," said Steyer, an NAACP civil rights lawyer and a former prosecutor in Oakland. Steyer became interested in the documentary last year after seeing a controversial documentary on poverty, teen pregnancy and race hosted by Bill Moyers. "Although it was a true story and a moving documentary," Steyer said, "it played into a lot of old stereotypes and myths — that poverty is a black problem and that irresponsible teenagers are having kids."
"Children of Poverty" argues that poverty is color blind and not restricted to one race. It also addresses the issue of the "new poor," the increasing number of broken families due to spouse abuse, families which are homeless and people who have lost their jobs.
Steyer hopes the documentary will inspire Stanford students and other Bay Area viewers to ad dress problems of poverty, problems that can affect all of us.
"We as young people will pay the price if we don't recognize the necessity of acting now in order to make people of poverty benefits and contributors, as opposed to burdens, of society.'" he said.
"It's in all of our self-interests. This is not dogmatic. It's cost-benefit analysis." he said. Steyer teaches Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in the United States, a political science lecture class offered spring quarter. Last month, he debated Asst. Attorney General William Bradford Reynolds about the Reagan administration's civil rights policies.
In 1982 the graduate senator from the Stanford Business School was Tom Steyer and the newly elected graduate senator from the School of Education was Peter Escobedo. Jim Steyer represented the Law School.
Stanford Progressive Alliance
Jim Steyer, a member of the Stanford Progressive Alliance, said that he sees a good deal of political apathy at Stanford. "There's greater participation and awareness, but relative to five years ago the student body today is pretty apathetic," he said. "If you're looking for a major trend in student activism, I don't think it exists right now."
The Stanford Progressive Alliance (SPA) often acts as a sort of clearinghouse for liberal thought on campus. An outgrowth of the Stanford Organizing Committee of 1967-78, SPA is geared toward forming a coalition of Third World, minority, women's and "traditional white progressive" groups, Steyer said.
He explained that women's, minority and Third World groups have been hurt in the past by their isolation from one another, something SPA set out to change.
Steyer estimated that last year SPA consisted of 40 different groups. The organization, he said, has a "self-defining membership. The word 'progressive' is self-defining. We leave it open." Steyer characterized SPA as "broad-minded, non dogmatic, open to many different opinions." He said that it is important for the organization to agree on common goals "because so often liberals have been torn apart by details."
Since these violent eruptions of the past, po litical activism at Stanford has taken on a much milder form than the violent eruptions of the past.
The highest level of activism took place in 1981 when around 500 students protested President Ronald Reagan's defense policies the day that Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger spoke on campus. Protest marches and rallies were held before, during and after Weinberger's speech.
Student participation reached a peak during a week-long group of activities called "Disorientation Week" last Spring Quarter when on a Friday night John Kenneth Galbraith drew an overflow crowd of 1700 in Memorial Auditorium at the same time a capacity crowd of 600 was attending a panel discussion on pornography in Kresge Auditorium featuring former pornography star of Deep Throat fame Linda Lovelace.
The rest of the week's activities, which were also well-attended, included rallies and other speakers such as Consumer Advocate Ralph Nader, American Indian Movement leader Dennis Banks and Democratic Socialist Michael Harrington.
The week was put together by a coalition of groups called the Stanford Progressive Alliance (SPA), which is planning on putting together one or two Disorientation Weeks this year ac cording to last year's Co-Coordinator Jim Steyer.
Steyer said the most important benefit students derived from the week was the ability to organize. "Something much more important than learning about the issue is students learning how to organize . . . that's what they take away from it."he said.
Another well-attended event sponsored by SPA was Hoovervilleßeaganville 82'. Students constructed a model of the depression -era shanty towns named after Hoover in an empty field across from the Hoover Tower in an at tempt to relate Reagan's policies to those pursued by Hoover. Steyer felt that last year students were more politically involved than they had been in the past two vears, although activism was still far below the levels of the late '60s and early '70s.
The reason for the greater student involve ment hist year' According to Steyer, it's Reagan. "Ronald Reagan is great for political activism. He takes so many objectionable stances that it raises everyones consciousness. He's probably the greatest thing that happened to student politics," Steyer said. Steyer predicted a greater level of student involvement this year in SPA because of the ex perience gained last year and the success of last year's events.
"Students have an incredible power to influence politics but I don't think they perceive that," he said.
Student legal activism
The Stanford Community Law Project initiated by a group of Stanford law students, now provides valuable legal services to residents of East Palo Alto and hands-on experience to Stanford law students. Law students counsel East Palo Alto residents in cases involving landlord/tenant disputes and government benefits, as well as other legal problems. They also run an Immigration clinic, a youth justice program and a domestic violence program, which obtains temporary restraining orders. Services are available on a sliding fee scale and about 95 percent are performed free of charge, according to Susan Balllet, the project's former executive director. The project was conceived in 1981 by a group of second-year law students. One of them, Jim Steyer, had taught In East Palo Alto with Barbara Mouton, who Is now the city's mayor, and other community leaders.
Steyer is a lecturer In the Political Science Department this year. According to Steyer, who Is also an attorney with the NAACP. the community leaders encouraged him to bring lawyers Into their community and he decided to do so. After three years of fund raising, Steyer and his friends opened the East Palo Alto Community Project In March 1984. Mouton said the project Is "excellent," because It "provides professional services ... to people of limited or no means." Mouton, who serves on the project's board of directors, said the board needs to concentrate on Informing the community about the project through "classes, seminars, newsletters and churches." Although over 2,400 clients have been served since the project opened, "most people [In East Palo Alto) probably don't know about It," Mouton said. Community education Is a top priority for the project, according to Law Prof. Bill Hane, who has been the temporary executive director of the project since Balllet resigned last December. Hane said the project Is "committed not only to legal services, but to doing community outreach and education." In addition, the project seek to use "both vehicles — community education and legal service delivery — to teach students to do both." Between one-third and one-half of the Stanford law students are involved in the project, according to Peggy Russell, a law school graduate who helped start the project and now serves on Its board of directors. Some students provide legal services or community education, while others help govern and manage the project.
Work at the project is now part of the regularly assigned coursework In several law classes. Since it is not necessary to be an attorney in order to represent a client at an administrative hearing, many students can handle these cases independently. Under California law. a student who has taken certain classes, including Civil Procedures and Evidence, can represent a client at a hearing or trial, provided an attorney Is present to supervise, according to Balllet. There are currently six lawyers at the project, four of whom are employed by the project and two of whom are affiliated with the Immigration Legal Resources Center. The Stanford Law School was not officially Involved with the student-run project until the fall of 1985, when the school voted to make it an official program. In the fall of 1986, Law School Dean John Hart Ely committed • 150,000 a year to the project, or one-half of the project's annual budget. The law school will solicit donations for the project from foundations and individuals, some of whom will be suggested by the University Development Office, according to Hane. Hane said that the law school development staff has told the development office that the project is its top fundraising priority. Any of the ♦ 150,000 that the law school does not secure through fund-raising efforts will come out of its own budget, Hane said. Despite this financial support from the law school, the project has "maintained its status as an independent non-profit" corporation, according to Steyer, because its "first commitment" is not to the law school, but to the residents of East Palo Alto.
- [The Stanford Daily, Volume 181, Issue 38, 16 April 1982]
- [Stanford Daily 1983-09-22 Campus politics: the times are changing-or are they? By BILL AINSWORTH TIM GRIEVE
- [Stanford Daily Campus hosts political rallies, demonstrations, debates By Bill Ainsworth 1982-08-13]
- [The Stanford Daily, Volume 191, Issue 24, 6 March 1987]