Together, I know we will take this remarkable organization to new heights in the 2020s.
You may be wondering who I am, how I got here, and I why I care about Free Press.
I first got to Washington, D.C., in 2006 as a legal intern at the Media Access Project. Then I worked as a staff attorney and teaching fellow at Georgetown Law’s Institute for Public Representation, where I counted Free Press among my many clients.
I later spent more than seven years advocating for the Latinx community on media-and-telecommunications issues at the National Hispanic Media Coalition, where I helped build the D.C. policy shop before returning to my native California with my husband to raise our two boys. I joined Free Press three years ago as vice president and senior counsel because I saw what was being built here and wanted to be part of it.
That’s my résumé, but it doesn’t capture how deeply personal Free Press’ mission to improve the media to realize a more just society is to me.
I’m a Mexican-American nerd who grew up wanting to be a journalist, to tell stories and uncover the truth about the people and world around me. As a young girl, I never left my home without a composition book in tow, and I harassed friends and family to write their stories down (countless of my former soccer teammates can testify to just how dorky and relentless I was about this). I didn’t realize it then, but in retrospect I think I did this because stories like mine never showed up in the media.
I learned from the media and playground taunts that some people thought Mexicans weren’t as good as whites, that men were better than women. And in my first year of college, I realized that I didn’t want to be part of a system as sexist and racist as the media industry. I wanted something better and knew I deserved something more.
I started my professional career as a public-school teacher in Los Angeles, where I began to connect the dots on how good public policy afforded me, a kid from a working-class family, opportunities to grow, learn and expand my horizons. I was the eager beneficiary of free library books and programs, free K–12 education, clean parks and beaches. Bert and Ernie taught me my ABCs and Mister Rogers showed me how to be a good neighbor. Public investment in these resources built my young mind and sparked intellectual curiosity.
Good public policy and grassroots organizing have fostered pathways to better lives for generations of families, including mine.
My father earned a living wage and I had health insurance thanks to the Teamsters union. I obtained a government grant that helped me become one of the first in my family to graduate from college. I was terrified when I was laid off from my first post-college job, but I collected unemployment to make ends meet, and used a government-subsidized “Lifeline” telephone connection to access job and educational opportunities.
In other words, I have a deep appreciation for the generations of activists who fought for shabby-heeled, scrappy, intellectually curious kids like me to fully participate in our democracy. And I have every intent in using these investments to build a society that treats people fairly, lifts people up and helps us understand each other better. I’ve never worked in the media. Instead I’m here to improve it. This is my life’s work.
And I believe there is no better place to do this work than Free Press.
We aren’t just an effective organization; we’re a special one too. We’re a team of brilliant and creative people with a vision to reform our media system to create a more just society. Above all, we are kind and loving, we care about our neighbors and we want to leave a better world to our children.
We have serious work to do at a grave moment in our nation’s history. I believe the excellent relationship Craig and I share and our complementary skill sets will enable us to sustain the crucial work that Free Press is already doing, tackle some of our country’s most pressing challenges, and build a vision for the future in which our communications systems serves the public interest and advances justice.
I wake up every morning and pop out of bed ready to serve this worthy cause, and I look forward to meeting you and conspiring about how to advance Free Press’ mission in the next decade.