SWLAW Blog | Events

Mayor Karen Bass with Dean Darby, Prof. Gunning, and BLSA students

March 19, 2024

Southwestern Law School Hosts Mayor Karen Bass in a Tribute to Mayor Tom Bradley’s Legacy

Los Angeles, CA - Southwestern Law School welcomed Mayor Karen Bass for a special event, “Echoes of Excellence: Honoring the Tom Bradley Legacy,” organized by the Black Law Students Association. The conversation, moderated by Isabelle Gunning, the Mayor Tom Bradley Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School, celebrated the significant contributions of Tom Bradley '56, a Southwestern alum and the city’s first Black mayor. The program provided a platform to explore the impact of his leadership on current city governance and Mayor Bass’s vision for Los Angeles.  

Mayor Bradley shattered racial barriers to become Los Angeles’s first Black mayor, serving from 1973 to 1993. His tenure was distinguished by efforts to diversify the LAPD, expand the city’s infrastructure, and foster inclusivity. Following in his trailblazing footsteps, Mayor Karen Bass, the second Black and first female mayor, continues to build on this legacy of breaking barriers and championing equity.   

Prof. Gunning with Mayor Karen Bass
Prof. Isabelle Gunning with Mayor Karen Bass

Reflecting on Bradley’s impact, Mayor Bass commended his multiracial organizing model, which resonated with her own early activism. “I saw his model of multiracial organizing, something we embraced from a young age, recognizing our collective strength,” she stated. Although she found herself occasionally at odds with Bradley’s policies during her youth—admitting, “I was a rabble-rouser”. Mayor Bass highlighted Bradley’s leadership in fostering a multiracial liberal political coalition, which notably presaged the diverse coalition that propelled Barack Obama to the presidency in the 2008 and 2012 elections.  

Mayor Bass highlighted the parallels between her approach and Mayor Bradley’s, particularly in addressing police force challenges and public health. “We’ve divested from communities, fundamentally changing social support systems,” she noted. Emphasizing the importance of care to prevent crises, Mayor Bass affirmed, “People don’t have to fall into crisis and become violent; this happens when they are not cared for.” She committed to fighting for essential social, health, and economic supports.  

One of Mayor Tom Bradley’s signature accomplishments was the successful 1984 Summer Olympics, marking the first time in history that the Summer Games not only captivated the global audience but also turned a profit, transforming the economic landscape of Los Angeles and setting a precedent for future host cities. Mayor Karen Bass, reflecting on Bradley’s impact, stated, “He had the most successful Olympics. We are still reaping the benefits to this day.” As Los Angeles prepares to host the Olympics again in 2028, Mayor Bass stands on the cusp of history. Should she be reelected, she will shepherd the city through these games, drawing inspiration from Bradley’s legacy. She aims to “live up to that legacy” and “figure out how to expand opportunities, particularly for small businesses and businesses owned by people of color.”  

The event concluded with a Q&A session, where Mayor Bass engaged with Southwestern students on various topics, including police union negotiations and affordable housing. She reiterated her belief in the potential of the United States to provide for citizens’ fundamental needs, calling on future lawyers and advocates to join her in this mission. “This is the richest, richest country in the history of the world. We should be able to feed, house, clothe, and educate our people,” Mayor Bass concluded, offering a sentiment of hope and collective action for the future.