Vien Truong '06 is working to change the community she was born and raised in through love and dedication.
Vien Truong ’06 loves her community, and it seems the feeling is mutual. In 2017, Assemblyman Rob Bonta of Oakland told San Francisco Magazine, “In Oakland, it’s essentially unanimous. She’s a legend.”
Among Truong’s most celebrated accomplishments in the fight against poverty and pollution, the passage and implementation of California’s landmark Senate Bill 535 (de Leon, 2012) led to the biggest fund in history ($1.2 billion to date) for green initiatives in the poorest and most polluted communities in California. In the Bay Area, and Oakland neighborhoods in particular, these efforts have resulted in affordable housing, free public transportation, and thousands of trees planted.
“For me, law has always been this amazing tool where it’s not through a hammer, it’s not through a war, but it’s really through the elegance of language where we can shape the reality of people’s lives,” Truong says, “including in communities that really don’t have access to law and politics and power in the traditional way.”
Despite the numerous local, state, and federal policies she’s helped pass in her tireless drive toward building an equitable and inclusive green economy, Truong does not consider herself a legend. But she does draw inspiration from one legend in particular: Bob Marley, who in 1976, played a free concert two days after suffering a gunshot wound. When asked why he didn’t cancel his performance, Marley said, “The people who are making the world worse aren’t taking the day off. Why should I?”
“For me, law has always been this amazing tool … where we can shape the reality of people’s lives.”
“The way I heard that,” Truong says, “was as a deep well of love for the people in his audience.”
A similar love and dedication drives the work Truong does for Oakland and other communities like it.
“When I step back and look at the policies and laws that I’ve passed, it all came from one original goal,” she says. “Within my abilities, how can I help the city of Oakland – and communities like it – be the best possible so that young people growing up in my hometown can have better opportunities than I had when I was growing up?”
This year, in addition to continuing her high-level policy work, Truong is also working at the ground level by creating a tech hub in Oakland. The hub will be a place for young people to get STE(A)M training, access opportunities in tech, and build leadership skills. With partners like Apple, which announced that they’d be working with Vien to create opportunities for Oakland youth, this project is well on its way.
“The future is no longer just written in law, it is also written in code. Just as the law shapes how we live, tech is fundamentally changing lives,” says Truong. “I’m excited to help bridge the gap between tech and equity in the community I love.”
GAMECHANGER is the way our students–past and present–see the world. It’s the impact our alumni have on local, national and global policy and law. The ideas and events that come from the minds of UC Hastings Law students and faculty help transform the world. UC Hastings Law plans to celebrate its GAMECHANGERS on Thursday, May 9.