Friday, October 12, 2001
Moreno Brings Story of Hard Work, Advancement to Alma Mater
By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer
It was by no means the first Lincoln High School homecoming for Carlos Moreno, the state Supreme Court nominee who visited his alma mater yesterday to share his story of hard work and success.
“I come here for Career Day every year,” Moreno said, walking across the well-manicured landscape of the spacious Lincoln Heights campus toward the auditorium where he sat as a student for assemblies in the 1960s.
“I just like to tell the students that if they work and study hard they can make it,” Moreno explained. “They can go to college and have a good career.”
With characteristic self-effacement he adds:
“I don’t know how effective I am.”
He was effective enough to keep an auditorium of about 200 students riveted as he talked about growing up in nearby Solano Canyon and working hard enough to become Lincoln High’s first graduate to go on to Yale University. Stanford Law School followed, then a legal career, the state trial bench and the federal bench, and after his expected confirmation Wednesday, California’s highest court.
Gov. Gray Davis nominated Moreno for the Supreme Court last month. He is to fill the post left open by the death earlier this year of Stanley Mosk, the longest-serving justice in state Supreme Court history. He would become the only Democrat on the seven-member court.
Moreno said he often has hosted visiting high school government classes in his current chambers, where he has served as a U.S. district judge for the Central District of California since his nomination by President Clinton and his confirmation in 1998. He admitted to a sense of satisfaction and comfort when he moved into his courtroom, the former postmaster general’s office for the area a few miles north where he grew up.
But the 52-year-old judge said it was always a special treat to visit Lincoln, where he graduated in 1966.
In those days, students had to memorize Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, part of which is carved inside the huge auditorium building. Moreno detailed a few other lost traditions as well, such as the first few auditorium rows being reserved for seniors, and students donning their class sweaters on Fridays.
But for the most part, Moreno said, the campus looked and felt the same.
Addressing the assembled teenagers, the jurist referred several times to his own son, who is in high school, although not at Lincoln.
“I tell my son to get involved,” Moreno said. “You don’t just go to school and go home. I was involved in track and in drama. Get involved.”
When it was time for questions, the students appeared less interested in how things were at Lincoln in the old days and more attuned to policy questions. What did he think of Proposition 21, he was asked. What was his toughest case? Did he ever look back at a ruling and believe he had made the wrong decision?
Moreno begged off opining on legislation, since it could be the subject of a case that comes before him on the high court. He said he never regretted a decision.
The child of Mexican immigrants drew some applause, and a few gasps, when he cautioned students who were not U.S. citizens to rectify the situation as soon as possible. An otherwise minor offense might get them deported to a country where they knew neither the language nor the culture, he said.
“If there’s anyone here who’s not an American citizen, shame on you,” Moreno said. “You should become one.”
The assembly ended when the bell rang and the students unceremoniously shot for the exits. But Veronica Balderas, 17, a Lincoln senior and the student body president, said it was clear Moreno had made an impression.
“Especially with all the seniors, sitting in the back,” she said. “It’s an honor for us to see him and to hear what he has accomplished.”
Principal Lupe Sonnie agreed.
“They’re very proud of him,” Sonnie said. “I think he’s a great role model, and we’re so proud he was selected for the Supreme Court.”
Afterward, Moreno said there was something more special about this visit, given his impending ascent to the Supreme Court.
“There’s a little more excitement this time,” he said.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company