It was an evening of community connection as South Pasadena residents and city officials gathered to hear from fellow resident and the 2020 President of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses (TOR) Laura Farber on Monday, June 17, for a cocktail party hosted by the Women Involved in South Pasadena Political Activism (WISPPA). The event was held at the South Pasadena home of Lisa Roe and Dr. Joseph Chen.
In the spirit of WISPPA’s purpose of pushing for accountability, integrity and transparency in local government and encouraging well-qualified candidates, especially women, to run for City council and serve on city commissions, attendees included residents, visitors, WISPPA members, city and county officials, fire and police officials, and members of the League of Women Voters Pasadena Area, among others.
As a South Pasadena resident, Farber shared insight into her life and upcoming tournament events as attendees gathered in the home’s back patio area. Farber and her husband Tomas Lopez have two children, Christopher and Jessica, who have attended Marengo Elementary School and South Pasadena Middle School. Farber has served as a tournament volunteer since 1993 and was elected to the executive committee in 2012. She serves on numerous local boards and is a partner in the Pasadena law firm of Hahn & Hahn, where she practices civil litigation with an emphasis in employment disputes. In addition, Farber is a member of the American Bar Association, where she serves as the State Delegate for California in the House of Delegates, Chair of the Latin America and Caribbean Initiative Council, a member of the Rule of Law Initiative Board, a member of the Steering Committee of the Nominating Committee, former member of the Board of Governors representing the State of California and past chair of the Young Lawyers Division. She earned her bachelor’s degree, cum laude, with departmental highest honors, in 1987 from University of California, Los Angeles and her juris doctor, cum laude, in 1990 from Georgetown University.
Farber shared that one of the duties of president is to select a theme for the tournament. Working with her husband, she selected “The Power of Hope,” as she wanted the theme “to unify our very divided country, our divided world.”
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, she said she was born at a time when the country was experiencing a lack of stability. While her parents were studying at the University of Buenos Aires to receive their doctorates in biochemistry, she said that many students spoke out against the government’s human rights violations and atrocities. At the time, her mother was pregnant with her. One particular day, her father was studying in a lab and was teargassed. In the upheaval and confusion, her father made the decision that it was no longer safe for his family. Through a professor’s recommendation to a colleague at UC Santa Barbara, they received post docs and student visas to continue their studies in California. Leaving their extended family and life behind, Farber said that their courage and idea of hope resonated with her. “They came and they left everyone, everything and their entire way of life to start something new in a country that would give them hope: hope for freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom to pursue economic opportunity, freedom to just be and not be concerned and looking over your shoulder about what was happening next. And so, the idea of hope really resonated and I’m a proud immigrant.”
“For us, this theme had a lot of importance to it but it’s not just about immigrants,” Farber continued. “It’s also about the belief that what is desired can be achieved, from the struggles of those that came before us to those that have yet to achieve their dreams. Hope is more than that though. Hope is dignity and respect, it’s joy and it’s happiness and hope is aspiration and achievement. With hope, we can inspire to do better and we can inspire others to reach higher. With hope, anything in fact everything is possible. Hope never quits. Nobody can take it away from you.”
Farber also shared detail into the tournament’s history with diversity and leadership. In 2013, the TOR had its first Asian-American president in Richard L. Chinen and in 2019, its first African-American president in Gerald Freeny. Farber is the first Latina and third woman to serve in the position. She noted that once someone is elected onto the executive committee, they are required to serve in a variety of roles for eight years until the opportunity arises to be president. The experience gives the president an ability to speak eloquently about the depth of the organization and its mission.
“We don’t just promote folks but we actually make sure that we have a pipeline and that’s what we’ve been spending time building, a pipeline of persons that can reflect our communities so that we can in fact have a leadership that is reflective and it’s taken awhile to make that happen,” explained Farber. The Rose Parade will feature the largest number of international bands to date, as well as the largest number from Latin America. She noted that bands with “compelling, amazing stories” have been selected from Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Mexico, an all-female marching band from Denmark, a composite band from Japan composed of various city residents in celebration of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in addition to local bands such as Alhambra Unified School District Marching Band (her alma mater), Pasadena City College Tournament of Roses Honor Band and Tournament of Roses Salvation Army Band. “We’ve made it a priority to get the know the kids and to answer questions and to help in any way that we can and it’s been really, really amazing,” said Farber.