Published : Monday, August 19, 2019 | 5:07 AM
A Saturday reception honoring Laura Farber, the first Latina President of the Tournament of Roses in its 130-year history, underscored how far the Tournament has come in achieving its goal of reflecting Pasadena’s complexion.
This leadership first comes back-to-back with last year’s first African American Tournament President, Gerald Freeny, who was among the 450 guests gathered in the sunny south Wrigley Garden at Tournament House.
Mayor Terry Tornek told the group that the moment marked a confluence of two themes which make Pasadena “tremendous.”
“We revere our institutions, the things that have been around for a long time and really set Pasadena apart from other cities,” Tornek said. “And of course the Tournament is exactly that.”
“The other theme that we have here tonight is Pasadena’s occupation — preoccupation — with diversity,” he said. “We’re convinced that from that diversity comes our strength.”
Following her introduction by her husband and college sweetheart Tomás Lopez, Farber told the assembled crowd she is “very proud” that Tournament of Roses “leadership now reflects, and has reflected, for the last several years, since 2015, our community.”
“That is important,” she continued. “It’s actually crucial. We did it in the right way, in a way that promotes longevity, understanding, respect for tradition, but also going up the ladder.”
Farber’s ascension began with an 18-year stint as a Tournament volunteer. She was rewarded by a nomination to serve on the organization’s executive committee eight years ago which placed her in line for the presidency.
The community members seemed to enthusiastically embrace Farber and her message.
Pasadena Community Coalition Chair Martin Gordon said Sunday his organization is “thrilled at the selection of Laura Farber. This, of course, was no surprise as the succession to president is predetermined by [the Tournament’] executive committee structure.”
Gordon noted that the Pasadena Community Coalition had been working with the Tournament on diversity issues throughout the entire organization for a number of years.
“We are showing progress at many levels,” said Gordon. “Current Executive Director David Eads has been a staunch supporter of community engagement and diversity. Yes, we still have work to do, but the progress and effort has been duly noted by the whole community.”
Chris Chahanian of the Armenian Community Coalition echoed Gordon’s comments, saying, “She is vibrant and charismatic with a very intelligent and focused mind. Besides being a mother, she is also a great lawyer.”
“I believe in choosing the [Rose Parade] theme of ‘Hope,’” said Chahanian, “Laura chose a universal concept that unites people of all backgrounds. In having hope we find comfort.”
Farber explained her theme — “The Power of Hope” — means anything, in fact, everything is possible.
“Hope is more than simply the possibility of fulfillment,” she said at the time she announced the Rose Parade’s 2020 theme. “Hope is dignity and respect, joy and happiness, aspiration and achievement.”
“It’s very timely at a time where our country and our world is so divided,” said Farber on Saturday, adding that, “the power of hope brings people together and that’s what America’s New Year’s celebration does.”
Farber also noted the theme’s importance to her own life.
“My parents came from Argentina at a very difficult time,” she recalled. “Things were happening that were not wonderful, and they left everyone and everything they knew, to start a new life here, and they have the courage to do that because this country represents a beacon of hope, hope for freedom of expression, religion, speech, education, and opportunity.