More than 100 people gathered in Mission High School’s auditorium Thursday night to witness the swearing in of District Attorney George Gascón.
Present at the ceremony — which was loaded with jokes — were U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, State Attorney General Kamala Harris, and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.
Newsom, who appointed Gascon as D.A. in January 2011, joked about how important it was to be brief with his remarks, a tongue-in-cheek reference to his penchant for long speeches.
Brown joked about having just returned from Havana, where no one knew Gascón. “Are you sure you’re from Cuba?” he asked, laughing.
Justice Carlos Moreno — a fellow Latino from Los Angeles, where the newly elected D.A. grew up, and an endorser of his campaign — came up on stage to swear Gascón in.
Gascón then took the podium, thanking the crowd in Spanish. He explained that he chose Mission High School for his inauguration because he could relate to so many of its students.
“I have never forgotten the difficulties I had as a recent immigrant to this country and the toils of my parents as they struggled to provide for me,” he said, referring to his experience as an immigrant from Cuba to Los Angeles.
“I want them to know that if I can go from a place of such profound marginalization to a place of leadership, absolutely anything is possible,” he said to the cheering crowd.
As district attorney, Gascón wants to prioritize a good education, decent jobs, fair wages and safe housing and communities. The former chief of police dropped out of high school, but went on to earn his degree and then a bachelor’s degree in history. He never believed he would become so successful, he said.
His story was echoed by poet Brandon Santiago of Youth Speaks, who talked about the difficulties for brown-skinned people in this country, based on his experiences as a high school drop-out and the struggles he faced in getting back on track. Santiago will soon graduate from San Francisco State University.
Gascón assured the crowd that he would not measure success “by the number of faces behind bars” but by “the safety of each street corner and alley.”
He spoke about the city’s financial hardships, recognizing that “every dollar we spend on locking someone up is a dollar that could have been spent on our schools and recreation centers.”
He is commited to “shutting down the school-to-prison pipeline,” Gascón said, reminding the community that it must hold those who do end up in prison “accountable for their actions, but then provide them a real fighting shot at reintegrating.”
Father Donal Godfrey closed the ceremony with a benediction, after which the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus performed a selection of songs.