Achievements stereotypically attributed to stellar students that will inevitably succeed in the future are: straight A’s, thousands of awards, president of three clubs and competitions every weekend. Former California State Assemblywoman, Sally Lieber’s journey to becoming a politician, however, demonstrates that success isn’t always filled with tons of stereotypical accomplishments.
Oracle sat down with Assemblywoman Sally Lieber last week to discuss how she has become who she is today. Lieber was a California State Assembly member for 6 years and a California Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore, or temporary speaker, from 2007 to 2008. During her term, she increased minimum wage, and passed the first bill that made human trafficking illegal in California. Despite Lieber’s success, she was not the ‘perfect’ student that one might expect.
Leading up to high school, Lieber worked on many campaigns.
“I guess something that got me into politics when I was 10 and 12 years old was the Watergate era, and listening to everything that was going on with the questioning of the president of the United States…It just really struck me and I wanted to be part of the government and part of seeing to it that government wasn’t just tripping over itself and [was]actually doing things that make sense,” said Lieber. Once she reached high school, a 1.5 GPA prevented her from continuing with campaigning because her parents decided she should focus more on her grades. Lieber wasn’t interested in what she learned at school despite her intelligence because it did not give her an opportunity to focus on politics- her true passion.
When Lieber finished high school, she began working in construction. One of the contractors of a construction site where Lieber worked suggested that she should go to a trade school, and took her to one in the east coast. There, Lieber found that she had an opportunity to develop her talents, unlike her previous educational experiences. Afterwards, Lieber attended Foothill community college, and became very involved in student government.
“I ended up transferring to Stanford, and probably in all the history of Stanford I was the only one that got in with a 1.5 gpa in high school,” she joked.
One of Lieber’s most passionate projects was outlawing physical punishment on children. It became a prominent issue, and Lieber gained a lot of attention.
“Ultimately, that bill didn’t make it…but it started a real discussion in California. Sometimes the things that you’re proudest of aren’t the things that are most successful. But you know you’re on the right track when you do the things that express who you are and not who anybody else is,” said Lieber.
After about a year and a half in office, there was a recall election, and Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor of California.
“Over time, I think I developed a really good working relationship with Arnold [Schwarzenegger], and I have to say that he’s so much more intelligent of a person than people ever give him credit for,” said Lieber. Schwarzenegger also contributed to the work with prevention of physical punishment of children.
One thing that Leiber remembers most is her experience with being ‘homeless’. When working with constituent cases, a homeless constituent once told Lieber that she didn’t know what being homeless was like, which inspired her to experience what being homeless really felt like for a short while. She set out from her house with a backpack and a little money, nothing more.
“I didn’t really know how long I was going to stay out, and I got rained on for about 12 hours on the first day. It was so amazing to me that, walking around, I would encounter people that I had hired for jobs and they didn’t even recognize me because when they saw someone who fit into a group that they had assumptions about. They didn’t even look at my face,” Lieber recalls.
Currently, some of Lieber’s goals are to return to office, and focus on protecting the environment. She also believes that education should be more specialized, and accommodate students who have different learning styles and may not be talented in certain areas but are very skilled in others. Lieber’s story shows that one does not need to be a perfect straight A student who has their life planned out in front of them to be successful. Instead of focusing on excelling in all areas, including areas that one isn’t interested in, Lieber suggests that students should focus their attention on what they enjoy doing.