Civic Learning California Summit: Making Democracy Work

Civic Learning California Summit
Feb 28, 2013

California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye and a committee of civic leaders organized the  summit to examine successes and barriers to increasing civic literacy in California. The event featured special guest Sandra Day O'Connor and launched the Chief Justice's Power of Democracy campaign.

Civic Learning: The Key to a Thriving Democracy

On Feb 28, Chief Justice of California Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye stood in front of an assembly of some 200 lawmakers and other government officials, business and labor  leaders, representatives of the state bar and other justice partners, teachers and students to talk about securing the future of California.

chief stands with Tom TorlaksonThe Chief Justice helped open the Civic Learning California Summit, an event organized to bring attention to the need for civic engagement and literacy in California schools. “We knew if we planned a civic summit, you would come," Cantil-Sakauye said. "And you did, because we all share one common interest: a future where democracy in our state continues to thrive and flourish. We all understand that the common vehicle to achieve that future is civic learning.”

"It’s important,” the Chief Justice continued, “that all Californians understand not only how democracy works, but how their participation in the democratic process guarantees that their voices are heard. The future of our democracy depends on the civic engagement of its people.”

U. S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor
The keynote speaker at the summit, retired U. S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, also expressed concern about the future of American democracy.

sandra day oconnor“This country matters to me,” Justice O’Connor said, “to you, to all of us, and frankly to the world. In order to secure the future of our democracy, our citizens must be engaged in the running of it. And that engagement starts at an early age.”

After she left the bench, Justice O’Connor founded iCivics, an interactive website that encourages young people to learn about civics. “Securing the future of our democracy requires teaching the next generation to understand and respect our system of governance, and then passing that knowledge and passion along to the next generation.”

Additional speakers at the summit included Secretary of State Debra Bowen, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, and CEO and Executive Director of the State Bar, Joseph Dunn, and a panel of leaders from education, labor, law, and business, all involved in passing the light of democracy on to the next generation.

high schools awardees with Chief JusticeCivic Learning Awards
A highlight of the summit was presentation of the new Civic Learning Awards. Designed to honor successful efforts to engage high school students in civic learning and single out models that can be replicated in other high schools, the award recognized 22 high schools for their efforts. Three schools—Alliance Judy Ivie Burton Technology Academy in Los Angeles, Golden Valley High School in Bakersfield, and San Marino High School in San Marino—received the Excellence Award, the highest award offered.

Diana Ledezma, a senior at Alliance Judy Ivie Burton Technology Academy, was chosen as the summit’s student speaker. “From my experience,” she said, “I learned that anyone can make a difference. I believe people should work for change and get involved, because one person doing something can inspire other people to do good. When people see someone trying to help, they want to help and get involved, and that’s the feeling we need in every community.”

The Power of Democracy
“Democracy is a use-it-or-lose-it proposition,” Cantil-Sakauye said. “California is complicated, and there are challenges we must face every day to maintain a living, thriving democracy. Democracy is the key to perpetual freedom. In order to secure the rights to that future, we have to be civically engaged.”

Learn more on the Chief Justice's Power of Democracy webpage.


Opening Remarks: Justice Judith D. McConnell, Administrative Presiding Justice, Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District
Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye watch video

Secretary of State Debra Brown (pictured left)


Civic Learning Awards
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson

Student Address
Diana Ledezma
Student, Alliance Judy Ivie Burton Technology Academy, Los Angeles
 watch video



Panel Discussion: Why Civics?
Moderator: Justice Judith D. McConnell, Administrative Presiding Justice, Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District 

Panelists: Judge Stacy Boulware Eurie, Presiding Judge, Juvenile Court, Superior Court of Sacramento County (pictured left)
Thomas Saenz, President and CO, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) (Pictured left)
Yvonne Walker, President, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1000
Allan Zaremberg, President and Chief Executive Officer, California Chamber of Commerce

11:05–11:15 Break
11:15–12:05 A Conversation with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, United State Supreme Court (Ret.) in conversation with
Hon. Deanell Reece Tacha (Ret.),
Duane and Kelly Roberts Dean and Professor of Law,
Pepperdine University School of Law
 watch video




Call to Action
Hon. Joseph Dunn (Ret).
Chief Executive Officer, State Bar of California 

Hon. Joan Buchanan
California State Assembly

Hon. Leland Yee
California State Senate

Hon. Marty Block
California State Senate

Hon. Mark Wyland
California State Senate


Justice Judith D. McConnell

awardees on stageCivic Learning California Summit photo gallery on picasa icon
Photos: 36




More videos will be added as they become available. Subscribe to the California Courts YouTube Channel for updates. A video of the event in its entirety is available on the California Channel.


Update: in July 2013, the Chief Justice joined this committee with the Leadership Group on Civic Education and Public Outreach (an implementation committee for the Commission for Impartial Courts) to form the Power of Democracy Steering Committee. The new group held its first meeting on July 22.

Hon. Tani Cantil-Sakauye
   Honorary Chair
Chief Justice of California and
Chair of the Judicial Council

Hon. Judith D. McConnell 
Administrative Presiding Justice 
Court of Appeal 
   Fourth Appellate District 

Hon. Frank C. Damrell, Jr. (Ret.)
Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP

Hon. Joseph Dunn
Chief Executive Officer
State Bar of California

Mr. Craig Cheslog
Principal Advisor to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Ms. Sonia Gonzales
Executive Director
California Bar Foudation

Mr. David W. Gordon
Superintendent of Schools
Sacramento County Office of Education

Dr. Michelle M. Herczog
Consultant, History-Social Science
Los Angeles County Office of Education

Hon. Curtis E. A. Karnow
Judge of the Superior Court of California,
County of San Francisco

Hon. Deanell Reece Tacha
Duane and Kelly Roberts
Dean and Professor of Law
Pepperdine University School of Law





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