The importance of being informed and making a difference—alum interview with Daniel Garcia, 1966 DC

What did you learn at the Encampment? I learned the importance of activism, education, knowledge, and involvement in the community. We learned the critical importance of being aware of political views on both sides including those views by divergent groups that we may be wary of, both from the Left and Right.  Stokely Carmichael, Robert Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey, and other political/community leaders were speakers at our Encampment. The EFC emphasized the importance of being informed and of making a difference

How has the Encampment influenced your life? The Encampment taught me not to be shy to take risks—to explore and journey into unfamiliar life experiences to enrich one’s self.  Upon returning from my EFC experience, I joined three other Hispanic students at the University of Southern California to organize the Mexican American Student Association (MASA). USC recognized MASA as a Hispanic student organization for the first time ever.

In 1970, I won a three-year management internship with the U.S. Government, thus becoming part of the first group of Hispanics in the U.S. Department of Health, Education, & Welfare Management Intern Program.  My first intern assignment was at the HEW in New York City. I worked on assessing the federal government’s impact upon urban cities receiving federal dollars for community/social improvement in cities such as Hoboken, East Orange, Passaic, N.J.; and Buffalo, South Bronx, N.Y.

In the ‘70s, while working for HEW in Washington, D.C., I left my desk in an obscure Washington, D.C. office to join a hundreds of marchers on Pennsylvania Avenue who marched in support of Cesar Chavez and the United Farmworkers Union. We were protesting the work lives of those who worked in the farm fields across America. I was sprayed with tear gas that afternoon, and later returned to my desk in that obscure Washington, D.C. office building.

In addition, after working for the U.S. government for 47 years, I did not feel compelled to join the ranks of Beltway consultants to enrich myself with money.  I chose the honorable profession of a school bus driver in my local community.  Been doing that since retiring in 2015. What a blast!

Why is the EFC important now?  Balance.  The extreme right, and Nationalist Right and current administration are destroying our democracy.   When I was a young Encamper, the threat of the Soviet Union then was a constant in the news.  Now, Russian assets may be influencing our elections and government.

What is your favorite memory or story from the Encampment? My EFC roommate, now a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Parting the Waters, America in the King Years, was back then my great friend and social partner during those weeks on campus at the University of Maryland. We had good times, getting hyped up on the importance of social justice, and making a difference in our community.

What motivated you to go to the Encampment? In 1966, my college political science professor at East Los Angeles College, Dr. Helen Miller Bailey, strongly encouraged me to attend. She paid for my expenses. A 2014 Book of her Life by author Dr. Rita Soza captured my own Life story as a Chicano growing up in East LA.  The Book is entitled:  “Helen Miller Bailey: The Pioneer Educator and Renaissance Woman Who Shaped Chicano(a) Leaders”

My interest was taking a risk to get out of East LA.  Had I stayed in East LA during the summer, I probably would have been like many friends at the time – in trouble with the LAPD, in jail or on the streets, even though I had reluctantly applied for, and won admission to, the University of Southern California.

I wanted to learn how I could make a difference working for the US government. Moreover, I wanted to get a J-O-B and stay out of trouble with the law.

When you arrived, what was your first impression of the Encampment?  I saw many pretty girls and lots of White folks.  There were many students who had “funny accents” (Russian, French, and Southern U.S. country-speak such as my roommate Taylor had (He was from Georgia, I think)).

What topic did you spend the most time on at the Encampment and what did you learn? We learned about the political landscape and interrelationship of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. I was impressed that high-level politicians and community activists came to speak with us or were willing to have us visit their offices.

 How did the Encampers get along? How did this change over the time you were together? In the beginning, some were aloof and avoided others. In addition, cliques formed.  However, we all got along.  Some stayed with others who they felt comfortable with—folks like themselves.  That was okay since we had time during the evening hours to all be together. We all were young.  At first, many of us were Introverts, like me, who soon became, outward and more able to interact because of the EFC experience.  There were tensions initially with my roommate Taylor and me.  We didn’t talk much during our initial times living together, but later became close friends and at the end, I became an emotional wreck, tearing up when we said goodbye.

 

 

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