The 65th Annual El Cerrito Democratic Club Annual Dinner was a resounding success!  Our keynote speaker was the inspirational Delaine Eastin, former Superintendent of Public Instruction. There were over 100 attendees, including six of the candidates running to succeed Tony Thurmond as our Assembly member for AD 15, all 5 El Cerrito City Council members, our County Supervisor John Gioia, and Maria Alegria, Chair of the Contra Costa County Central Committee.  There were several other elected officials – our own Stege Sanitary members Al Miller and Dwight Merrill, Dana Dean from the Solano County Board of Education, and luminaries from several boards and commissions.  

We also honored members who had been involved with the club for over 39 years:  Dwight and Gloria Merrill, Betty Brown, Grace MacNeil, and Art and Sue Walenta.  We’ll take this opportunity to thank Dwight and Gloria for the pyracantha center pieces, Art and Sue for the wine, juice, popcorn and pretzels, and Grace for her excellent work in the kitchen.  

Grace and Marty Seuss have kept the buffet organized and attractive for several years.  Not only are all the sides, salads and desserts provided by members organized an presented, the buffet itself kept tidy and attractive, but at the end of the evening the kitchen is clean and sparkling, and members can retrieve their serving dishes and utensils.

But I think we’d all agree that our keynote speaker, Delaine Eastin, provided many many highlights to our evening.  She claims to have a “spine of brass” which she amply demonstrated with her forthright support for transit oriented housing, against fracking, and healthcare for all.  Her unequivocal support for public schools, backed up by  a demand for a moratorium on charter schools, a detailed analysis of the harm caused by “sending our education money to for-profit corporations out of state” earned her cheers and a standing ovation.  

Her well-known statement that “budgets are statements of values” was illustrated as she dissected the spending patterns that built 4 times as many prisons as state colleges over the past 40 years, and identified how reforming Proposition 13 would provide the funds urgently needed to make California an education powerhouse.  She described the breadth of careers and job opportunities that California’s adult learners could aspire to if the educational resources were available, and described how our state could have centers of productivity in many areas that would provide the kind of economic stimulus and incentive that we now get from Silicon Valley.  

While some of us were concerned that her background as our State Superintendent of Public Instruction might be a limitation, when she quoted Neil Postman who said, “children are the living messages we send to a time we’ll never see,” many of us had tears in our eyes.  That image showed us all that her commitment is not just to education, not just to our students, but to us, our present and our future.

We will note here that the Club’s new dinner caterer, Larb, did an excellent job supplying chicken curry, coconut fried rice, and the exceptional vegetarian stir-fry with tofu. Their setup kept the food hot to the end of dinner hour.

There are many great photos, but for a good collection by Rita Xavier, please check out her Facebook page at