Friday, August 12, 2011

Darrell Steinberg - President pro Tem of the California State Senate

Because I want to interview a bunch of different types of people, I interviewed my California State Senator, Darrell Steinberg. Senator Steinberg is also the President pro Tem of the Senate. You can check out his website here.

PMAKid: What are your three favorite books and why are they your favorites?

Senator Steinberg:
1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
2. I Know This Much Is True, by Wally Lamb
3. Biographies of the Presidents, especially Abraham Lincoln

PMAKid: What are your three favorite songs and why are they your favorites?

Senator Steinberg:
1. Misheberach by Debbie Friedman
2. Thunder Road, Bruce Springsteen

PMAKid: What was your first political office, and why did you get into politics in the first place?

Senator Steinberg: Sacramento City Council, 6th District. I was inspired to enter politics while in law school at UCDavis.

PMAKid: You won the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award the same time that another person I interviewed (Mike Villines) won it. Can you tell me what you did to get that award? I know it had to do with the state budget and a lot of people were mad about the budget, but can you give me a little more information?

Senator Steinberg: Receiving the Profiles in Courage Award was one of the greatest honors of my life. My fellow recipients – Speaker Bass, Senator Cogdill and Assemblyman Villines –share this great honor. All too often cynics in our state, and pundits across the nation take their shots at California and our challenges, but the fact is that when faced with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, lawmakers from both sides of California’s political spectrum did what was necessary to resolve the largest budget deficit in California history. Many of the compromises we made were extremely unpopular with our constituencies. My colleagues in the California legislature continue to meet the challenges to create jobs, make serious government reform, and reduce California’s deficit.

PMAKid: Mike Villines told me about how hard it is to be Minority Leader in the State Assembly. How hard is it to be the President pro Tem in the State Senate? I know you live near the capitol -because you are my State Senator, but I bet that you do not get to see your family a lot.

Senator Steinberg: President pro Tem is the hardest and the most satisfying job of my life. While the time and energy necessary to the job are huge, the rewards are huge as well. Every day I come to work excited to do my best for the people of California. My peers have elected me to be their leader in the Senate and it is my great honor to work with the other elected leaders. Finding time for my family is a challenge, but I do my best to carve out time, especially on the weekends. My wife, Julie, and I have 2 wonderful, smart, funny children, Jordana and Ari.

PMAKid: I want to ask you the same question that I asked the the Minority Leader in the State Assembly (Connie Conway): My school is a really great school because the Principal and all the teachers really want kids to learn and almost all the kids work really hard and do really well. Having good public schools are really important, but they are having problems with money like everybody in California. My class last year had over 30 kids in it. What do you think we need to do to make all the schools as good as mine?

Senator Steinberg: I’m glad that despite California’s financial difficulties your school is doing well. Many of our schools are doing an amazing job despite years of underfunding. Did you know that some states spend nearly twice as much as we do per student? I believe we can and must do better, and that we should fund our schools at the level they deserve. I will be working with the Governor and others to bring more and more stable funding to schools in the coming years. I’m also working on legislation to ensure that more students, especially in our high schools, have access to challenging, interesting courses that are connected to the kinds of jobs they want to hold when they enter the world of work. So many of the jobs in our future economy will require at least a two- or four-year college degree, so we have to make sure our schools are preparing students to succeed in both college and career.

PMAKid: Do you have kids? If you do, what are their favorite books to read? Right now, mine are the Fablehaven series.

Senator Steinberg:
Jordana likes: The Kane Chronicles and Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan -Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
Ari likes: The Pendragon Chronicles by D.J. MacHale

PMAKid: How do you teach your kids to stay away from drugs and how to deal with friends who talk about using drugs or alcohol?

Senator Steinberg: Keeping kids away from drugs and alcohol is a great challenge, but by keeping the lines of communication open, Jordana and Ari and Julie and I are able to talk about pretty much anything. It is also extremely important to teach by example. My kids know that there are no drugs in our house.

PMAKid: I know from what Mike Villines told me that it must be really stressful to do your job. How do you keep a Positive Mental Attitude when things are really hard?

Senator Steinberg: My positive mental attitude comes from my parents. I know that every day is a fresh start. Humor helps me through the day, too. I really enjoy seeing the quirky side of life.

PMAKid: If you could have any job besides being in the State Senate, what would it be?

Senator Steinberg: Major League Baseball Announcer

PMAKid: Thanks a lot, Senator!

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