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Former Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon Returns to Alma Mater to Promote Civic Engagement

Town Hall Inspires Students to Research Homelessness, Climate Change, Voter Engagement
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Anthony Rendon can tell you exactly when he first became interested in the environment. 

“It was a geography class that I took during my junior year here at Cal State Fullerton,” said Rendon. “I never really thought much about the environment until I took that class, and I ended up becoming the executive director of the California and Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters. That says a lot about the impact that that class and that experience had on my life.” 

Since that first geography course, Rendon has turned his interest into more than a decade of work on environmental issues and a decorated career in education, public policy and government. He previously served as the speaker of the California Assembly for seven years and currently represents the 62nd district. 

During an April 12 Town Hall Meeting, the CSUF alumnus shared his journey from being a college student to becoming the second longest-serving speaker of the California Assembly. 

Students also had the opportunity to showcase their political knowledge to an audience of local government officials and public affairs leaders. Their projects tackled relevant topics, including homelessness, climate change and voter engagement. 

Political science graduate student and Class of 2024 grad Mert Bayraktar said the Town Hall gave students a chance to make their voices heard, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable concerns.

Mert Bayraktar
Mert Bayraktar, Class of 2024 political science graduate student

“There are so many problems out there to fix and if we were doing this alone, it would be too much for us to solve,” said Bayraktar, who serves as president of Pi Sigma Alpha, CSUF’s chapter of the National Political Honor Society. “It’s about teamwork, and it’s encouraging to find that we’re all striving for the same excellence that we hope to achieve. Cal State Fullerton is the place to do this kind of work.” 

Scott Spitzer, associate professor of political science, added that the event signifies most students’ first experience with civic engagement, and with the nation facing uncertainty about issues like home insecurity, the environment and the upcoming election, their academic research in these areas will be paramount to inspiring change in the future. 

“The leaders who are here today hold positions of authority and power in our communities and government. They’re doing important work, and they are coming to hear from our students,” said Spitzer. “At a time of great upheaval in national politics, our students are engaging as citizens in real discussions with these leaders. We empowered them to share their ideas in hopes that they will continue these conversations in the future.” 

The Impact of a Titan Education

“When you think about the extent to which your experiences here will impact your life, they will to a tremendous degree,” said Rendon ’82, ’94 (B.A., M.A. political science). 

As a student, Rendon said his professors and classes greatly influenced his passion for the environment and the arts, and throughout his career, he’s remained committed to projects that promote those areas. 

Anthony Rendon
Anthony Rendon, CSUF alumnus and former Speaker of the California Assembly

“Whether it was making sure there was an arts curriculum in early childhood education or supporting the construction of an arts center in Los Angeles, the arts have been infused in every single thing I’ve done — and that started here at Fullerton,” he said.

Before he got involved in politics, Rendon was an educator and a nonprofit executive director. During his career, the state of California passed legislation that cut funding for his nonprofit, which required him to lay off hundreds of people. That’s when he realized the importance of getting involved in government. 

Rendon has worked on several impactful projects during his political career, including passing a $52 billion transportation funding plan, an extension of California’s cap-and-trade program, a first-of-its-kind clean air measure, and legislation to address the affordable housing crisis and single-use plastic packaging. 

For students who want to make a difference in politics, Rendon said the most important part is researching the issues. 

“You have to understand the extent to which politics and public policy impact your life. This event is a good place to start,” said Rendon. “Make sure that you continue to do that throughout your careers.” 

Taylor Arrey