By George Foulsham
Hilda L. Solis, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and current First District Supervisor for Los Angeles County, has been named the 2016 Commencement speaker for the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.
Solis, who served as Labor Secretary from 2009 to 2013 under President Obama, will speak during the Luskin ceremony at 9 a.m. on June 10 at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus.
“Supervisor Solis is both an advocate and a legislator who works to address the needs of the Los Angeles community,” Luskin Interim Dean Lois Takahashi said. “She is a champion of issues that we care about here at UCLA Luskin: access to affordable health care, environmental protections and workers’ rights.
“Supervisor Solis can speak to the opportunities and challenges our graduates will face in the job market,” Takahashi added. “As an experienced public servant at all levels of government, and as the first Latina to hold a cabinet-level position, Supervisor Solis has a unique perspective on the contributions our graduates can make.”
Solis was sworn in as Los Angeles County Supervisor on Dec. 1, 2014. Prior to serving as Secretary of Labor, Solis represented the 32nd Congressional District in California, a position she held from 2001 to 2009.
A nationally recognized leader on the environment, Solis became the first woman to receive the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in 2000 for her pioneering work on environmental justice issues. Her California environmental justice legislation, enacted in 1999, was the first of its kind in the nation to become law.
A native of Los Angeles County, Solis grew up in La Puente, Calif. She was born in 1957 to Juana and Raul Solis, who met in citizenship classes in California. Her mother, a native of Nicaragua, worked on an assembly line while her father, a Mexican immigrant, worked as a steward for the Teamsters union.
As the third of seven children, Solis served as a role model for her younger siblings by becoming the first person in her family to attend college, at Cal Poly Pomona.
“He always reminded us that it was important to stand up for your rights, and regardless of who you are and where you come from, to hold your head up high with dignity and respect,” Solis said of her father during a 2001 interview with California Journal.
Solis was also the first Latina elected to the California State Senate, in 1994. While serving as a state senator, she helped push through legislation to increase the minimum wage from $4.25 to $5.75 an hour.
“We are looking forward to hearing from one of L.A.’s leading public servants,” Takahashi said.