“I like Gandhi’s expression: ‘You must be the change you wish to seen in the world,’” Congressman Sam Farr says philosophically while sitting in his Washington, D.C., office. It is this phrase that may capture the Carmel High Class of 1959 graduate’s hands-on life perfectly.
Congressman Farr has represented the Central Coast for 22 years, and in that time has advocated for California agriculture, encouraged the protection of the oceans and supported efforts for affordable housing, to name just a few of his favorite causes.
Living on the Monterey Peninsula, the Carmel resident credits some of his political interests to having been influenced by the region’s unique environment and history.
He draws specific attention to the value of aesthetics, both material and immaterial, found on the peninsula and our appreciation for the land, a fact he notes is one of the only reasons the Monterey Peninsula did not become a major population center like San Diego or San Francisco. During his public service he has aimed at maintaining those values by co-chairing the House Oceans Caucus, of which he is a founder, and the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus, while still participating in several other caucuses.
In addition, the peninsula’s military history, specifically its diversity, has led to Farr appreciating and working towards a healthy environment. He credits Fort Ord becoming the first racially integrated base and the establishment of both the Defense Language Institute and Naval Postgraduate School for the peninsula’s diversity and for his dedication to maintaining that balance.
“What I saw develop in my young life was the integration of the Monterey Peninsula, the diversification of societies on the Peninsula,” the Middlebury Institute of International Studies graduate explains. “We otherwise would have become a Palm Springs, Newport Beach, [or other gated community].”
One way Farr is working toward keeping the diversity of the region is by supporting the advancement of affordable housing projects, a strategy he believes will alleviate one of the largest problems facing the area: traffic.
“When I grew up in Carmel, everyone who lived in Carmel worked in Carmel…. It was a community of families,” Farr remarks.
The congressman says that those who work in and maintain the community should also have the opportunity to live in the community they support.
Beyond the 20th congressional district, Farr addresses one of the greatest issues facing the nation at the moment, the adamant gridlock in Congress.
“There is gridlock in this nation,” Farr comments, “and we are a house of representatives, and we are representing the feelings of this nation.”
He blames the election of “single thought” politicians due in part to gerrymandering or the manipulation of the boundaries of an electoral constituency.
“[The single thought politicians] have already predetermined that they are going to shut down this and shut down that without thinking of what the consequences are,” the Democrat adds.
However, the obstacles of partisan politics have not stopped Farr in the past, serving most of his political career in the minority. Looking back at the start of his career, some might think Farr gained his interest in politics from his father, Fred Farr, a California state senator, but the Central Coast’s longest serving member of Congress attributes his public service career to CHS.
After suffering a hand injury during a JV football practice the week before his freshman year, Farr was sent to the hospital and remained there during the first week of school. His classmates, feeling sorry for him, nominated and elected him for freshman class president, unbeknownst to the shy 14-year-old. Originally hesitant, Farr accepted the position, encouraged by the perk of being able to skip first period Algebra for student council meetings. Despite the irregular path to office, Farr enjoyed the position immensely and participated in student government all four years at CHS.
Four years later, having graduated from Willamette University, the biology major had his sights set on becoming a teacher after being inspired by former CHS biology teacher Enid Larson. However, the Peace Corps volunteer’s plans changed while serving in Columbia in 1964, when one of his sisters died from an accident during a visit. Recognizing that access to better medical care could have saved his sister’s life, the congressman discovered his new mission in life.
“Taking the pain of her death, the sorrow, I turned it into pledging to try to improve the world so that no child would not have access to health care… And essentially that led to committing myself to fighting the war on poverty.”
Returning home, Farr soon gained his first elected position—outside of CHS—on the Democratic Central Committee, and eventually won a seat on the Monterey County Board of Supervisors in 1975, then moving on to serve 12 years as a state assemblyman. In 1993, Farr was elected to the House of Representatives, and for now, it seems he will continue to face the political challenges head on, responding to the question of whether he will run for his seat in the next election cycle with the confident statement, “I intend to run.”