FAIRFIELD — Rep. John Garamendi told high school students Wednesday how he chose the Peace Corps over pro football, why Travis Air Force Base will remain open for decades and that California will never be split into six states.
“It has to do with political power,” he said of California remaining a single state. “Do you think any state, other than California, would want to give California 12 senators instead of two?”
“Spend your time on something that could happen,” Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, advised Fairfield High School students in the economics class he addressed.
Asked by an 18-year-old student about the future of Travis Air Force Base, Garamendi answered, “I don’t think it will be closed in your lifetime.”
The base is the logistical hub of the West Coast and “it’s not going to go away,” he said.
Beale Air Force Base in Yuba County, where surveillance drones are based, has a sign over a door that reads, “In God we trust. All others we watch,” said the congressman. You go to Travis to get to the rest of the world watched by U.S. drones, said Garamendi, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee.
Asked by a student why became a congressman, Garamendi said after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley – where he played football – the Oakland Raiders, Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals were interested in him entering the pro football draft. But the woman he would wed wanted to enter the Peace Corps, Garamendi said.
“I didn’t play professional football,” he told students. “We went into the Peace Corps.”
“That was 48 years ago,” he said, and he and wife Patti Garamendi have been married 47 years and have six children.
Asked later about his greatest achievements, the congressman said, “I’ve had the most marvelous journey.”
“I found the woman I love,” Garamendi said to applause from the students.
He said that later as a University of California regent he opposed tuition increases – and lost every one of the votes.
The Affordable Care Act has provided almost 1.5 million Californians with health coverage, said the congressman, who represents the 3rd District that includes much of Solano County.
“It is working,” Garamendi said. “It’s going to be, and is, a very good improvement on the health care system.”
At the end of his hourlong talk, he held up a smartphone and told students they can register to vote by going on the California Secretary of State website. Ballots for the June 3 and Nov. 4 elections can be mailed to voters, Garamendi said.
“You see a name called ‘Garamendi,’ ” he said. “Check that one off.”
He urged students to work in a political campaign and said he’d like them to walk precincts in his re-election bid.
“If you don’t work for me, work for my opponent,” he said. “You will learn how to be a good citizen.”
Lonnie Saetern, 17, a senior who had asked Garamendi what he was doing about the cost of college, said after the congressman’s talk that, “It was good to see someone was standing up for us.”
Saetern will attend the University of California, Merced, and said she and fellow student Kristin Hsu, 17, who’ll attend the University of California, Santa Barbara, are trying to figure out how to pay the $34,000 a year in college costs.
Asked about voting for Garamendi, Hsu that she’d want to do further research.
Senior August Messano, 18, who’ll attend California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, said he’d also want to do some reading before voting but that he was impressed with what Garamendi said Wednesday.
“He definitely sold me,” Messano said.
Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or email@example.com.