CSUN associates in politics: a legacy of political engagement and activism

Council member Richard Alarcon recognizes Event Chairman Dale Gibson for his support and dedication to the Horse Ranchers Association in San Fernando Valley during a City Council meeting in Van Nuys. Photo credit: Karla Henry / Contributor

From current president of Egypt Mohamed Morsi to System of a Down frontman and activist Serj Tankian to urban studies and planning professor Raul Bocanegra, CSUN has a tradition of graduating  students and providing a home to faculty that have a passion for politics.

Morsi, before becoming Egypt’s first democratically elected president since the Egyptian revolution, enjoyed a short-lived stay at CSUN as assistant professor from 1982 to 1985 after graduating and earning his Ph.D. in engineering from USC.

Some other notable alumni include former Mayor of Pasadena, Bill Paparian, candidate for state representative of Pennsylvania, Will Sylianteng, former governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle, and urban studies and planning professor, Bocanegra, who is running against CSUN alum Richard Alarcon for State Assembly District 39.

Sometimes people have to fight

“I was 7 years old when JFK was elected,” Alarcon said. “And was very impressionable at the time. I believed in the hope that he inspired. In many ways, his call to action of ‘ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’ has been a mantra for my life.”

In addition to the memorable president speech, it was also common for Alarcon’s family to talk about politics around the dinner table. Later on as a student at John H. Francis Polytechnic High School, Alarcon became increasingly involved with activism, in particular with ethnic minority rights and the movement against the Vietnam War. It was through his direct involvement with these issues that he was elected student body president at his high school.

This was young Alarcon’s first steps into the world of politics, and he has remained in that world ever since.

As a CSUN student, he was involved in intramural sports such as baseball and football and MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan). While at CSUN, he participated in several rallies to protest the war in Vietnam. Additionally, he was on the organizing committee in 1975 to protest against tuition increases.

As a former teacher, education and helping the poor and financially-struggling is Alarcon’s top priority. Furthermore, a highly-skilled and productive workforce is the key to improving the economy, he said.

“The first bill I want to introduce is to increase literacy in public education,” Alarcon said.

The highest-ranking Asian-American in Pennsylvania politics

Will Sylianteng graduated from CSUN with a B.A. in political science and is now running for the House of Representatives in Pennsylvania. If he is elected, he will become the highest-ranking Asian-American in Pennsylvania politics. This is the reason Sylianteng feels compelled to give a voice to the growing Asian population.

At CSUN, Sylianteng got the politic bug and knew he wanted to work in the government, but he didn’t know exactly what he wanted to do.

Like Alarcon, public education is Sylianteng’s number one priority. The U.S. needs to invest more in students, and public education should be accessible to everyone, Sylianteng said.

On the issue for women’s reproductive rights, Sylianteng is pro-choice. He supports same-sex marriage.

The expenses of the American government are a shared responsibility and people who reach a certain income level should pay more taxes, Sylianteng said. He believes U.S. citizens are responsible for the country’s government.

CSUN Alumna, governor of Hawaii, urges GOP not to ‘go backward’

In 1975, Linda Lingle graduated from CSUN with a journalism degree. Years later, she was elected governor of Hawaii and served from 2002 to 2010. Lingle was the first woman, first person of Jewish ancestry and the first Republican in 40 years to lead the state. Currently, she is running for senator of Hawaii.

Lingle hopes to return a common-sense bipartisanship to the halls of Congress. Her top priority is to encourage the private sector to create more jobs, increase the country’s competitiveness and re-establish a vibrant and growing national economy.

She wants to focus on putting America’s fiscal house in order by using her own approach implemented when she served as governor of Hawaii, to turn a quarter million dollar deficit into a $730 million surplus in four years without increasing taxes.

“We must get the deficit under control and bring down the nation’s debt,” Lingle said.

Lingle wants to address the long-term structural problems facing the U.S. such as social security, Medicare and Medicaid.

“There is no excuse for Congress to delay taking action on these important issues,” Lingle said.

Preserving America’s security forces to insure stability and deterrence from armed aggression in the Asia-Pacific region is another item she wants to take care of. She wants to expand trade relationship with the governments of the Asia-Pacific region.

Lingle was born in 1970s, when decades of battles to equalize the rights of women and men were being realized. She grew up a time when women suddenly had choices about their education, their career and their bodies and their lives.

“I won’t allow us to go backward,” Lingle said.

As a Republican Lingle has been critical about her party’s recent policy and stance on women’s reproductive issues, something she hopes she can change.

“It pains me deeply to see members of my own party attempting to legislate women’s health and contraception choices,” she said.