Leadership students visit senior center, hear speech by politician

April 3, 2019 — by Jun Lee and Nitya Marimuthu

On March 8 in the Saratoga senior center, 20 Leadership students listened to local politician Ken Yeager as he described the tribulations he had endured on his path to serving on the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors.

Yeager served as the first openly gay member on the board of supervisors. His term ended in late 2018, after completing 12 years of service.

According to sophomore class treasurer Lauren Tan, the trip was initially meant to be the sophomore class service project, during which the students would spend time with the seniors. This changed when the manager of the senior center asked if the Leadership class could listen to the speech by Yeager and give feedback, so the sophomore class instead used the Giving Tree drive in first semester as their service project and half the students from the Leadership class listened to the speech.  

The students served as “guinea pigs” as they listened to the speaker, according to Tan.

After Yeager gave his speech, students had the opportunity to ask him questions and clarify parts of the speech that they did not understand to help him revise his speech, senior class officer Enzo Coglitore said.

Yeager spoke to the class about the discrimination he felt running as an openly gay man. He described “how people used his sexuality against him” while running for office, and how he learned to overcome this obstacle and persevere, according to Coglitore.

Sophomore class officer Tyler Chu said that he thought the speech was “very powerful” and that it sent a “strong message.” Chu found Yeager’s perseverance through harsh discrimination to be admirable.

“Yeager tried over and over again to get what he believed was right,” Chu said.

Coglitore said he also learned to be more open and accepting to all types of people through listening to Yeager’s speech.

“It’s nice to see how politicians present themselves in person and how they interact with others, because I thought what I read about on the paper could be different from what I actually see in person,” Coglitore said.