Brown reflects on Biden era, challenges ahead

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Some may think California icon Willie Brown Jr. is retired after being at the forefront of the state’s political scene for 40 years. But “retired” is a relative term for Brown, who has been busy with his Willie L. Brown Jr. Institute on Politics and Public Service – and obliging the continuous requests for TV and radio interviews.

Speaking virtually Jan. 21 with members of the Rotary Club of Los Altos, Brown noted that California has become an important player in Washington, D.C., since last month’s transition to the Biden administration.

He touted President Joe Biden’s storied history in the U.S. Senate and service as vice president. He applauded the selection of Kamala Harris as vice president, relating how she has a long history with the Bidens. Harris worked with Biden’s son Beau when he was attorney general of Delaware and Harris was AG of California.

As vice president, Brown said Harris – the first woman and the first African American to hold the office – will be the tie-breaking vote in the Senate and is arguably the second most powerful person in the world.

Brown said the Jan. 20 inauguration was the most-watched ever, and when listening to Biden’s speech, he felt as though the president was speaking sincerely.

He pointed to multiple national crises facing the new administration. Brown urged immediate and rapid vaccinations against COVID without complex rules. He recommended using central vaccination sites, such as schools and portable facilities, in addition to enlisting doctors, dentists, pharmacists, EMTs, firefighters and medical schools to administer vaccines.
Brown also touched on Gov. Gavin Newsom, recalling how he gave a young Newsom his start in politics by appointing him to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

Despite approaching his 87th birthday, Brown remains witty, sharp and relevant as his institute aims to educate and inspire California leaders.

Asked what he will do when the lockdown ends, Brown replied that he will show off his new wardrobe from Wilkes Bashford. He said he donated nearly his entire old wardrobe to the Salvation Army last year.

As his longtime column in the San Francisco Chronicle comes to an end, Brown assured Rotarians, “You will hear from and see Willie Brown again!”

For more information on the Rotary Club of Los Altos, visit

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