Providing life advice as well as insight into governing a city, former Long Beach Mayor Beverly O’Neill spoke to Jahneen Nadeau’s third-grade class at Los Cerritos Elementary School last Tuesday morning.
O’Neill, whose grandniece is in the class, served as mayor of Long Beach for three terms, from 1994 to 2006. To get elected for a third term, voters had to vote for her by writing her name on their ballots.
Although a popular mayor, O’Neill told the children she wasn’t always so confident that she could actually fulfill mayoral duties.
“People had asked if I would run, and I said, ‘No, I don’t think so– I don’t think I can do it,’” O’Neill said. “I learned something– you can’t ever say ‘can’t’ because when you say ‘can’t’, it makes you fail. You fail in the things you haven’t even tried.”
During her visit, O’Neill told the third-graders about the purpose of a city, and how the mayor and council members work together to get things done. She also discussed the write-in process and her education in Long Beach, from Lee Elementary to Cal State Long Beach.
Her visit had extra meaning for Nadeau, who said that O’Neill was her advisor when she was part of the cabinet at Long Beach City College.
“This is so full circle because I retire next year, and now to have you [O’Neill] here, from my beginning…it’s really special to have you,” Nadeau said, as she addressed the former city leader in front of the class. “I just so appreciate it.”
After her introductory remarks, O’Neill took questions from the class, viewed a PowerPoint presentation made by some of the students and then listened to a song the class performed for her. In her responses to their questions, she talked about the business of being a mayor, her nervousness during elections and her greatest motivation– her mother.
“My mother always told me, ‘You can do whatever you want with your life, Beverly,’ and I believed it,” O’Neill said. “And so if you work hard at things, and if you stay in school and you get good grades, and if education is important to you, there’s probably nothing that you couldn’t do. And the mayor could be sitting here in front of you– somebody in this room.” ß