It is no small tragedy that George Moscone’s life was cut short 40 years ago this month and he was not allowed to fulfill his purpose of righting wrongs for Californians.
As a state senator, he championed bills that established California’s school lunch program, mandated bilingual education in public schools and overturned the state’s sodomy statute. He also worked on abortion rights, gun control, the death penalty and lessening of marijuana penalties. As mayor of San Francisco, Moscone included people who were traditionally left out -- women, African Americans, Asians, LGBTQ people and others -- more than ever before in government.
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“My father was the first one to open the door,” his son, Jonathan Moscone, says in the documentary “Moscone: A Legacy of Change,” airing Nov. 5 on KVIE and later this month on other PBS stations throughout the country. “He pushed the doors open, and he kept them open and they never closed. I think the flow into and out of the halls of power changed dramatically because of my dad.”
Moscone met Willie Brown, the former state Assembly speaker and San Francisco mayor, at UC Hastings College of Law while both worked as custodians to pay tuition. “George Moscone was different than any white man I had ever met,” Brown says in the documentary. “The comfort level of your conversation with Moscone, your social interactions with Moscone, was absolutely no different than your comfort level of social interactions with any other black guy.”
Moscone truly exemplified the mission of his alma mater, University of the Pacific, to educate students to live, learn and lead with purpose. At the university, he honed the political curiosity and passion for advocacy that he would later use in the state Capitol. His papers are held in the Holt-Atherton Special Collection in Stockton, where students, faculty researchers and the public can study them and continue his legacy.
Since his death, there has been progress toward more representation from the state’s diverse populations, but there is much more to do. Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent signing of a bill mandating that corporate boards in California include women is a good first step, but closing the gender wage gap is long overdue.
We have the same issue in Sacramento city government. An audit found that the city is falling short in hiring minorities and women. While it will take time to reduce the hiring and salary disparities, we all have to work with greater urgency to close those gaps. The best way to close those disparities is through a well-educated workforce. University of the Pacific and the city of Sacramento have been longstanding partners in that effort.
We must learn from Moscone’s example and work to right the injustices that are still present in our world. With political bickering and gamesmanship flooding the national dialogue today, it is time for Moscone to be recognized for the statesman and voice for diversity he was.