By Radha Ramanathan (Castilleja Chapter)
Castilleja’s Real Talk Chapter had the opportunity to hear from Steve Westly, the former California State Controller, California Chairman of the Obama for America and recent candidate for California Governor. Mr. Westly led us through his political career, noting that the connecting thread between all of his successes was being firm on decisions. He urged us to be tough in whatever we pursued, whether that be mathematics or politics. Our meeting was in the wake of the 2020 Presidential Election, a time when there was still discourse about the certification of votes, fraudulent mail in ballots, and voter harassment across the country. Mr. Westly sought to clear up some of the confusion Castilleja students were feeling, explaining the implication of each state’s results, and more importantly, the House and Senate results. While these races almost seemed like an afterthought to the hugely contested and highly publicized presidential race, the Senate and House contain much of the political power in America. They draft and pass the most important bills to the United States in the throes of the COVID-19 Pandemic–stimulus bills. In the Senate, the Republican majority held, and Mr. Westly made sure we all remembered that our work is not finished, even if the official count was leaning towards a certain candidate. Mr. Westly also drew on his extensive knowledge of political organizing to show exactly how each candidate appealed to voters across America. He explained the different “camps” that each party targets, with the “camps” that usually swing during the presidential elections being Non-college degree, white working class, and rural voters. Both the Biden and Trump campaigns sought to attract these demographics, which Mr. Westly also pointed out were ones that had been overlooked in the past, often producing surprise results on Election Day. Mr. Westly also detailed the overall strategies of the Biden and Trump Campaigns, with much of the material being pushed out over social media, including Facebook to target the “suburban women” camp. Mr. Westly, who now works in renewable energy with his venture capital firm The Westly Group, noted that climate change was top of mind for both Democrats and Republicans, with areas like the “Rust Belt” of America bearing the brunt of the shift to renewable energy. Mr. Westly closed by again emphasizing the importance of being tough in whatever we pursue. Having a daughter who went through Castilleja, he noticed that there was not much emphasis on this particular virtue. He asserted that a dogged attitude toward the world can only do one good, as passion is the key component to revered presidents, award-winning scientists, and iconic writers. The recording of the entire session can be found here.