With mariachis playing and children singing “This Land Is Your Land,” the opening of the new school complex on the old Ambassador Hotel site was perfect except for one terrible mistake—the name.
“Central Los Angeles Learning Center # 1” sounds like something they’d call a school in the old Soviet Union. Where was the name of the man who inspired the construction of the six schools in the complex, Robert F. Kennedy? Kennedy was assassinated in the Ambassador in June 1968 just after he won the California presidential primary. More than that, the New York senator stood for what these schools should accomplish. Why wasn’t the campus named for him?
When the project was developed, it was understood the campus would bear his name, especially after attempts to save the Ambassador as a landmark failed.
Before the opening day festivities began Saturday, I put this question to Monica Garcia, president of the Los Angeles Unified School District board.
Will the completed complex be named for RFK? “I think, yes, “ she said. “That is the name that is coming up and it is a beautiful thing, the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools.”
She said the board will vote on the name at its November meeting. I hope the vote is fast and unanimous. I hope there’s not a hang up, as so often happens at the school board. “Central Los Angeles Learning Center #1” does not evoke hope. Robert F. Kennedy does.
He would be an inspiration to the students in classes from kindergarten through 12th grade. They and their families are people Kennedy spoke for during his brief presidential campaign. They are mostly Latino and poor, living in one of America’s most crowded communities. Kennedy’s story and his words, along with the education the schools will offer, would provide an upward path toward attainment of the American dream. There is no better monument to RFK than that.