Mary Nichols and Vien Truong have a few things in common.
In addition to being powerful leaders in the movement for a more fair and healthy state, both women will receive TransForm’s 2015 LIVE Award honoring leadership, innovation, vision, and equity. Mary, Chair of the California Air Resources Board, and Vien, National Director at Green For All, both champion these values in their professional and personal lives.
We are honored to celebrate their accomplishments in person at our second annual LIVE Awards + Benefit on Thursday, October 29 in San Francisco, and we invite you to join us! Reserve your spot by purchasing a ticket online today.
Mary and Vien generously sat down to share with us what inspires them, what they are most proud of, and what we can all be doing to make California a better place for everyone to live.
TransForm: “What was your inspiration to start doing the work you’re doing?”
Mary Nichols: “I first visited California in 1970, on a cross country summer road trip. I will never forget driving over the pass and down into the smog that blanketed Los Angeles. When I returned as a newly graduated lawyer in 1971, I joined the first public interest law firm in Southern California and began bringing cases under the Clean Air Act.”
Vien Truong: “There have been many inspirations that have shaped me and my work. Growing up in Oakland, I have had a deep sense that inequities are not natural. I witnessed many families – including my own – struggling to make ends meet year after year. There have been many leaders who have shown that the existing social constructs can and must be reconstructed – from previous classroom teachers, to social justice leaders, to historic leaders like Tubman and Mandela. Many people and circumstances have shaped and inspired my work.”
“Mary, in your 14 years as Chair of the California Air Resources Board, what are you most proud of?”
MN: “I am proud that Air Resources Board (ARB) has become the world-recognized leader in developing technology-forcing regulations to protect public health against air pollution.”
“Vien, you served as Environmental Equity Director at Greenlining Institute before joining Green For All. What are you most proud of in your work?”
VT: “In the last few years, I have been blessed to work with allies to create thoughtful policies for low-income communities. We co-sponsored and helped pass SB 535 (de Leon) which has led to the largest fund in history for disadvantaged communities. This year, it is projected to be upwards of $559 million!
Last year, we co-sponsored SB 1275 (de Leon) as part of the Charge Ahead Coalition. We have also helped to develop the California Climate Credit...this helps families who are struggling to make ends meet get money back twice a year on their electricity bill.”
“What could we be doing right now to reduce carbon emissions, or close the gap between climate change and undeserved communities?”
MN: “We can find the financial and regulatory tools to ramp up production of affordable housing in areas close to transit and other amenities or in places like the Central Valley where new forms of clean, affordable transportation can be created. We can enact and implement the Governor’s 50-50-50 plan for renewable electricity, petroleum reduction and increased energy efficiency in existing buildings. We can also work with local governments and NGOs to identify better ways to protect the most vulnerable members of our communities against climate impacts. “
VT: “We should start with an understanding of true solidarity – which for me is captured in the quote: ‘If you came here to help me, you’re wasting your time. If you came here for help, I don’t have the time. But if you came here because you see your future bound up in mine, then let’s roll up our sleeves and work together.’ For me, solidarity means that the work we do isn’t transactional. It means fighting alongside those who are fighting for the same world that we are working towards. We must make sure our movements, our coalitions, and our decision-making processes are truly working with the communities that are most impacted.”
“Our LIVE Awards honor Californians who exemplify the values of "Leadership, Innovation, Vision and Equity. Which of these values speaks most to you?”
MN: “If forced to pick one I suppose I would have to choose leadership, simply because I have been given the opportunity to act in leadership roles.
“When you're not busy saving the world, what do you enjoy doing?”
MN: “I take the fullest possible advantage of living in a great city (Los Angeles). I go to art galleries and museums, opera and foreign movies. I try out new restaurants and shops in different neighborhoods walk in the hills and on the beach. I take my grandchildren along whenever possible.”
VT: “My favorite thing is to spend time with my family. We spend weekends exploring the Bay Area – museums, swap meets, parks, all kinds of little adventures.”
“What kind of impact is TransForm having in California?”
MN: “I think TransForm is providing tools and opportunities for people in the Bay Area who are seeking to promote a vision of healthier and more vibrant urban communities.”
VT: “TransForm has been a leader in transportation. It has been my honor to work with TransForm’s incredible team – from the time I was on the City of Oakland Planning Commission to now developing complementary solutions and programs at the state level. Having seen the organization’s work on the local, regional and state level – I can say that they are the experts in developing walkable communities with transportation choices for all.”