US Senate candidate Kevin de León addresses students in UC Berkeley political science course

Daniela Cervantes/Staff

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Kevin de León, president pro tem of the California State Senate and a candidate for the U.S. Senate elections, spoke to more than 600 UC Berkeley students in Wheeler Hall during Professor Alan Ross’s “Colloquium in Political Science” class, or Political Science 179, on Tuesday.

During the speech, de León talked about his upbringing as the youngest child of a single mother. He added that he was the only one in his family to graduate high school and that he started teaching English language lessons to help immigrants get on the path to permanent residency. De León praised the diversity in both the campus and the constituents he represents in the 24th State Senate district.

“This is what California looks like, and it is our role to do everything we can in our power to improve the human condition,” de León said during the speech. “In this great state, we celebrate our diversity. We don’t ban it, we don’t deport it, and we as sure as hell don’t wall it off.”

Ross said he invited de León so that students would be more informed in the upcoming elections, as well as to encourage them to read more about the candidates.

“It’s not a done deal that (U.S. Sen. Dianne) Feinstein automatically wins re-election,” Ross said. “Support the candidate that talks about the issues that you care about.”

During his speech, de León talked about how he authored SB 54, which made California into a sanctuary state, and SB 100 which was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday and which requires that California rely on 100 percent clean energy by 2045.

“Now that California has established itself legally — not aspirationally, but legally and statutorily — 100 percent clean energy, then other states will emulate California,” de León said during the speech. “The world is watching California. They’re not watching the soap opera in Washington D.C.”

Many students at the event said his speech was informative and well-spoken. Campus junior Lily Green, who is enrolled in Ross’ course, said she enjoyed hearing about the work de León has done in the state Senate.

“It was really informative to hear more about what his platform was and some of the issues that he supported, and he talked a lot about some of the bills he’s written,” Green said. “I wasn’t aware that he was the one that wrote them, so it was kind of cool to hear more about what he’s been doing and what he might bring to the U.S. senate if he’s elected.”

De León closed the speech by answering a question about Feinstein, the incumbent senator, and her seniority in comparison to his. De León responded, “Seniority means nothing if you don’t use it.”

“These are very dangerous times in our nation’s history. You have to get out and vote,” de León said. “You have to get involved in politics, because if you don’t get involved in politics, politics is going to get involved with you, whether you like it or not.”

Contact Mariam Zagub at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @MZagub.