Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass, who represents California’s 37th District, joined a wide-ranging conversation about American history and the confluence of crises facing the nation during LMU’s virtual Constitution Day event on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020.
Bass was joined by Evan Gerstmann and Chaya Crowder, faculty members in the Department of Political Science and International Relations, and several LMU students for the hourlong event commemorating the signing of the country’s founding document, the U.S. Constitution. Many Jesuit institutions mark Constitution Day with events since it was established in 2005.
Watch the recording here.
Bass told the audience that “so much is at stake in our country right now” during the discussion that touched upon the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic crisis, police brutality against people of color, and systemic racism.
“Many people every few years say, ‘This is the most important election of your lifetime,’” the Democratic lawmaker said, referring to the November contest between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.
“I don’t say that. I say, ‘This election is a matter of life and death.’ Because I don’t want to see 200,000 more Americans die. I don’t want to see our democracy stretched and strained the way it has been over the last three and a half years.
“I do hope with all that is going on in our country, that those of you who are watching make a commitment to be involved,” she added, stressing to students the importance of not only voting, but also being active in the community.
Asked about her top priority if Biden is elected and the Democrats are the majority in the House and Senate, the Democratic lawmaker said, “there is only one issue: COVID.”
“You can’t talk about all the other issues, until people are safe,” Bass said. “If we (Democrats) don’t get back the White House and the Senate, for whatever reason, I do not believe we will get control of the pandemic.”
Among the LMU students asking questions was a political science major who is a recipient of the Emilia and Michael Wright scholarship, named for the Congresswoman’s late daughter and son-in-law, who met while LMU students and died in a traffic accident in 2006.
In addition to leading the Congressional Black Caucus, Bass chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, as well as the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime.
Her 37th District includes South Los Angeles, Crenshaw, Baldwin Hills, Miracle Mile, Pico-Robertson, Century City, Cheviot Hills, West Los Angeles, and Mar Vista.
Prior to her election to Congress, Bass served in the California State Assembly, and in 2008 became the first African American woman in U.S. history to serve as speaker of any state legislature.