Communities

Working with our neighbors to build a strong community

Wesson offers a peek into politics

LA City Council President Herb Wesson Jr. shares his personal and professional arc in life with USC students. (USC Photo/Dietmar Quistorf)

By Gerald Corporal

January 15, 2014

USC Residential College students in Marks Tower enjoyed a real taste of Los Angeles — literally and figuratively — as they welcomed LA City Council President Herb Wesson Jr. to share a conversation over In-N-Out burgers in the packed lounge.

Nearly 60 students listened to Wesson share his passion for public service, encouraging attendees to engage in civic life. Students enjoyed lighter moments as Wesson recounted camping adventures during his talk, and they were also inspired to think about their own ways to actively participate in public life.

“His talk definitely spurred my interest in service, and now I’m very interested in volunteering,” said freshman Cynthia Tice.

Wesson’s Jan. 14 visit served as one installment in a series of “Tuesday Night Dinners” with faculty. Residential faculty develop these programs to provide students living in USC residence halls with the opportunity for personal and professional growth. Previous guests have included Milton Grimes, the civil rights attorney for Rodney King; Neelam Sharma, executive director of Community Services Unlimited Inc.; and USC leaders such as Executive Vice Provost Michael Quick.

Tim Biblarz, professor of sociology at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and residential faculty master for South Area residents, arranged the evening with Wesson, but he also adds a mix of casual conversations with faculty to the series, both in the lounge and at private home dinners.

The idea of inviting Wesson came to Biblarz as he reflected on his former home in the West Adams neighborhood, prior to living on campus. West Adams, which is Wesson’s district, is a historic area adjacent to the USC campus.

“ ‘Tuesday Night Dinners’ are open to all residents and offer an opportunity for students to hear from interesting leaders in a close, intimate setting. The events typically draw 12 to 15 students,” said Biblarz, while preparing for the event. “But we moved the event to a larger venue due to popular demand.”

The evening began with Wesson discussing his upbringing, sharing his experiences as a first-generation college student and how he entered his profession in politics. He imparted several words of wisdom, such as the need to be cognizant of how they use social media, and the importance for their generation to vote in elections.

“People literally had to die in order to afford me the right to vote,” Wesson said in his closing remarks.

Afterward, several students eagerly lined up to speak individually with their guest.

“I’m not interested in working in government, but politics itself is always so interesting to listen to,” said freshman Chris Leon.

“The content of his information was so great, I wanted to hear more,” added freshman Alice Kim.