Environmental activist Erin Brockovich adds power to YWCA Inspire Luncheon

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich may have been made famous by the Oscar-winning movie starring Julia Roberts, but she proved she’s got her own star power at the YWCA Golden Gate Silicon Valley’s Inspire Luncheon on Thursday.

She certainly captivated the audience of more than 900 people — double last year’s crowd — at the Santa Clara Convention Center and fit right in with the event’s “The Power of Change” theme.

“Every person in this room has the potential to create change in the community,” said Adriana Caldera Boroffice, CEO of the YWCA Golden Gate Silicon Valley. “And who better than the great Erin Brockovich to illustrate how change can be started with one voice?”

In an onstage conversation with NBC Bay Area’s Audrey Asistio, Brockovich shared stories about the obstacles she faced growing up, her love and connection to water, and how her “sticktoitiveness” led her to stand with the people facing water contamination in Hinkley, California, that became the basis of the 2000 movie.

Erin Brockovich is seen on a large screen as she speaks on stage at the YWCA Golden Gate Silicon Valley’s Inspire Luncheon event on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, at Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, Calif. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

“The film ‘Erin Brockovich’ was definitely about the environment, but there was a lot of subtext in there about gender issues, about inequality and about single moms,” said Brockovich, 63, who is still involved in environmental projects worldwide as the president of Brockovich Research and Consulting.

Brockovich wasn’t the only one talking about change at the luncheon, either. The YWCA gave its Empowerment Award to a group of 23 students at Oak Grove and Piedmont Hills high schools in San Jose who belong to TEA Clubs. In this case, TEA stands for “Teens Ending Abuse,” and those students surveyed their peers and pushed their schools to add gender-neutral restrooms to campuses. Seven students joined TEA Club coordinator Maggie Ball on stage to accept the award.

Attendees Maya Perkins, left, and Elle Parivar applaud at the YWCA Golden Gate Silicon Valley's Inspire Luncheon event on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, at Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, Calif. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)
Attendees Maya Perkins, left, and Elle Parivar applaud at the YWCA Golden Gate Silicon Valley’s Inspire Luncheon event on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, at Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, Calif. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

Creating change in a community, Brockovich said several times, has to begin with creating change in yourself — stepping back, taking stock and having a moment of self-renewal. She said she doesn’t know if it was COVID-19 or just the universe deciding we were all crazy and needed to sit down for a while, but she sees the world in a transition of change and evolution.

“There is hope there will be a bright future. And as long as all of us stay together and believe in each other once again, arm in arm, and recognize one doesn’t work without the other, every one of us has a place here,” she said. “What’s been missing is us. Welcome to the game — because we’re the change.”

Erin Brockovich waves as she walks off the stage during the YWCA Golden Gate Silicon Valley's Inspire Luncheon event on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, at Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, Calif. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)
Erin Brockovich waves as she walks off the stage during the YWCA Golden Gate Silicon Valley’s Inspire Luncheon event on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, at Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, Calif. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

HONOR ROLL: Retired Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Towery was honored with a lifetime achievement award Wednesday night at the Santa Clara County Bar Association’s Judges Night ceremony at Urban Blanco in downtown San Jose. Before being appointed to the bench by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012, Towery had a long career with Hoge, Fenton, Jones & Appel and also worked as chief trial counsel for the State Bar of California. He previously served as president of both the State Bar and the Santa Clara County Bar Association and retired as a judge in April.

Other award recipients were Judge Sunil Kulkarni (Jurist of the Year); BJ Fadem, (Professional Lawyer of the Year);  Jonathan Kahn (Court Professional of the Year); and Robert Hoover, who was honored for Distinguished Service in recognition of his 63 years of membership in the county bar association.

POLITICAL FOOTBALLS: The Bay Area Panthers and the San Jose Sports Authority recruited San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan and Morgan Hill Mayor Mark Turner to host a free youth football clinic on Saturday at San Jose State’s CEFCU Stadium. The two-hour event starts at 5 p.m. and is open to boys and girls in third through sixth grade, who can participate in six non-contact skills challenges including passing, kicking, running and agility. You can get a link to a pre-registration form by emailing Chase Lazarus at [email protected].

Everyone who participates in the “Bay Area Panthers/USA Football Kick, Throw & Go Mayors Challenge” also will get tickets to the Bay Area Panthers opening game next spring at SAP Center. The indoor football team announced last month that it would keep its headquarters and training facilities in Morgan Hill and continue to play its games at the Shark Tank in San Jose.

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