On April 7, the Ken and Lynn Hall Network for Innovation and Policy welcomed United States Representative Pete Aguilar ’01 as the final speaker in the semester’s virtual Brown Bag Series.
“In my head, it wasn’t too long ago that I was a student,” said Aguilar, former mayor of Redlands who now represents California’s 31st congressional district, “and these types of discussions made my time at Redlands so impactful and pushed me toward trying new things.”
During the recent conversation, which was moderated by School of Education Professor Andrew Wall, Aguilar spoke about his involvement in the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other policymaking issues.
On March 11, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan—a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill fighting some of the consequences of the pandemic—into law. Including the distribution of economic impact payments to people across the country, the bill enhances the child tax credit and prioritizes direct aid to state and local governments, including continued protections for small businesses and funds for schools to transition back to in-person learning.
“This is a once-in-a-generation crisis that deserved a once-in-a-generation response,” said Aguilar.
In his own district, Aguilar has been visiting vaccination sites—including the vaccination clinic at the University of Redlands main campus—to support the effort and ensure that operations are running smoothly. He notes he has been encouraged by California’s continued progress, reflected by a decreasing number of COVID-19 cases across the state.
Additionally, Aguilar spoke about his work to fight systemic racism, including the recent spike in hate crimes against Asian Americans. In addition to participating in a number of committees and caucuses dedicated to reform, Aguilar has prioritized legislation that aims to stop racial profiling in policing.
Throughout his talk, Aguilar returned to the values of equity and access as guiding forces in his life and work. He commended partnerships within the community, such as Loma Linda University Health’s collaboration with African American churches, for their successful distribution of vaccines.
Aguilar views public policy as a response to things he sees happening in the world and said he strives to be a policymaker who listens to everyone.
“It comes down to using government as an instrument of good,” he said. “That’s how we make positive and lasting impacts on the region, country, and world. In its most basic form, if we believe in clean air, clean water, education, and healthcare, we believe in public policy. The government can play a significant role in helping those who have been left behind and righting some of the inequities that we’ve seen historically.”
In closing the conversation, Aguilar encouraged attendees to get involved in their communities—whether it be running for office or working with grassroots organizations.
“The stakes are high when it comes to preserving democracy,” he said. “If we ensure that healthcare and education are equitable and accessible, we’re going to be better for it.”
In addition to hosting the series of lunchtime lectures that explore topics related to public policy, the Ken and Lynn Hall Network for Innovation and Policy funds student internships, trips to Sacramento and Washington D.C., and supports scholarship and research. Learn more about the Hall Network and studying political science or public policy at the University of Redlands.