LocationAlhambra , CA
The Tournament of Roses came to Alhambra on Tuesday. Not the actual parade, of course, but President Laura Farber, an alumnus of Alhambra High School and the first Latina to hold the post of tournament president.
The occasion was to mark the participation of the combined 2020 AUSD Rose Parade Marching Band, made up of musicians from three of the district’s high schools, and the presentation of the Tournament of Roses banner. This banner will be carried front and center leading the musicians as they step off on the parade route on Wednesday, Jan 1, 2020.
The theme of the 131st parade, is the “The Power of Hope.” It is Farber’s theme and it is the message she takes to the high schools she has visited around the country. It is a message with special resonance to the diverse student population of the AUSD and in the combined 2020 Marching Band.
Farber is no stranger to AUSD campuses and the concept of hope. She grew up on Ladera Street in Monterey Park and attended Monterey Highlands Elementary School. She took the bus to Alhambra High School. Kids from that area of Monterey Park attend Mark Keppel High School now.
She was on the debate team in high school and was a song leader during her senior year. She went on to UCLA where she earned a degree in political science cum laude with departmental highest honors. She earned her law degree at Georgetown University where she met her husband Tomas Lopez, who is also an attorney. Farber is now a partner at the Pasadena law firm of Hahn & Hahn where she practices civil litigation.
She was born in Buenos Aires where her parents were both studying biochemistry at the University of Buenos Aires. Her family came to the United States to escape the often violent political climate in Argentina at that time. So hope for a better future was embedded in her at an early age.
Farber’s day started early Tuesday at Alhambra High School with a visit to the school’s Dream Center, where she and her husband, whose family immigrated from the Dominican Republic, met with faculty members who have worked to make the center a safe haven and academic resource center for scores of pupils. That notion of a safe haven speaks to the couple’s own narrative of coming from other countries and speaking a first language other than English. Language diversity is also a key theme in the makeup of the 2020 Rose Parade Marching Band where 17 home languages are spoken.
After visiting the Dream Center, Farber and her party headed off to San Gabriel High School where the majority of her day was spent.
At the San Gabriel Arena, members of the staff and student body are eagerly waiting her arrival. As many as 90 students from multiple dance groups on campus including Cheer, Drill, Choreo and Corazon Latino stretch and do practice routines. Farber’s arrival is met with bouquets of flowers and a red and blue lei, which are the school’s colors.
She begins her remarks by noting that AUSD should be proud to be one of the 16 schools/districts selected to be part of the parade. “Over 100 band applications were sent in,” she says, and “only 16 were selected.”
The school visits are designed, she says, because “we want to help you with financial resources, help you fundraise and help the community find out what a great job you’re doing.”
She talks to the students about “The Power of Hope” or, as she says in Spanish “el poder de la esperanza,” and delivers a message of personal empowerment in her life and in the lives of the students she’s addressing. She recounts details of her family’s life in Argentina before coming to California.
“The United States represented a beacon of hope for our families,” she says. “Hope for freedom of expression, hope for association, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to pursue your education and economic opportunities.”
“So that’s the reason we came here and we are proud immigrants.”
Amplifying on the theme Farber says “hope is joy and hope is happiness, dignity and respect, aspiration and achievement…And with hope it never quits, no one can ever take it away from you.”
And then the various dance troupes begin their performances and Farber is thoroughly engaged, cheering on and bobbing her head to the music.
Next on her busy agenda, she moves to another part of the school to meet with students engaged in journalism and the school yearbooks for an informal Q&A. The message of empowerment goes along with her as she tells the students “There are no obstacles other than the ones other people mark for you. So anything you want to do, you can do. You just have to set your mind to it.”
She talks about qualities of leadership after a student asks her “what do you find most difficult about being president of the Rose Parade?”
“You can’t please everyone all the time. You should strive to please as many people as you can but a leader leads…you must also empower others to step up and lead as well. But the most challenging thing is making everyone happy and comfortable.”
AUSD board member Jane Anderson is in the audience. She was a Monterey Highlands teacher for 35 years and says Farber was as student of hers in second grade and shows the audience a picture of the class.
Lunch time is approaching and Farber joins 286 members of the AUSD 2020 Marching Band for lunch. She shares a roundtable with all the band leaders. After lunch she will spend time autographing the official 2020 Tournament of Roses posters for each of the band members.
As the day stretches into the late afternoon the proceedings move to the football stadium for the presentation of the tournament banner and a performance and pep rally for the combined AUSD 2020 Rose Parade Marching Band.
A large crowd of perhaps 300 family, friends and band supporters have filled the home side stands. Local dignitaries including AUSD School Board President Robert L. Gin, and board members Wing Ho, Jane Anderson and Joanne Russell Chavez are in the stands as well as AUSD Superintendent Denise Jaramillo. Ross Maza, the newly installed mayor of Alhambra is seated with Farber as is Steve Perry, the president of the Alhambra Educational Foundation, which has been the leader in raising vital funds for band uniforms and instruments for the combined marching band.
Down on the field Mark Trulson, Alhambra High Band Director and the AUSD 2020 Rose Parade Marching Band lead director, kicks off the program and draws laughs and willing participation as he asks all in attendance to point to the sky and say a word of thanks that the rain has stayed away.
Trulson introduces his band leading colleagues from San Gabriel High School Ben Coria and Justin Lee from Mark Keppel High School. Trulson notes that the band marching in the parade will total more than 300 members making it larger than many university marching bands. This will be the second appearance in the Rose Parade for the AUSD band, the previous one being in 2009.
Mitchell Ing, the vice mayor of Monterey Park then steps to the microphone to introduce Farber who greets the audience saying she is “a proud Alhambra Moor” before congratulating each of the band directors involved in this complex consolidation for their great work.
The band is an impressive site on the football field stretching nearly the whole length and width of the playing surface. It is made up of mostly a 50/50 student mix of Asia American Pacific Islanders and Latino students. About 51% of the band is female.
They then launch into the program they will present at the Tournament of Roses’ Bandfest at Pasadena City College on Dec. 29. At the end of the performance, Farber presents the tournament banner and, after a short break, the band reassembles to take a lap around the field with banner carriers front and center holding the Tournament of Roses colors.
The message she has carried to AUSD students throughout the day resonates as the band marches past the stands.
“Each and every one of you represents the power of hope. You give all of us hope for the future, we look at you and we see hope….please carry that with you. It’s a great source of pride to be here.”