A panel view. (Ras Siddiqui)
The 90th Annual Sacramento Host Breakfast held in California’s Capital City, May 28, was a high-level affair where business, military, politics and sports came together in showcasing the best of California, write Ras Siddiqui.
Sponsored by the Sacramento Host Committee California Chamber of Commerce, this elaborate breakfast gathering had way over a thousand people in attendance from all over the Golden State, and the mood was certainly upbeat since the California’s economy is on the upswing. With unemployment falling and businesses expanding in spite of one of the worst droughts in decades, the man at the helm of state affairs, Governor Edmund Gerald “Jerry” Brown Jr., our longest serving Governor ever (cumulative years), was very much present and cautiously confident himself. And if optimism is emerging in California, the man who brought a great deal of it (from the Bay Area) to the City of Sacramento by buying the Sacramento Kings, Vivek Ranadivé and kept the team in California’s capital, also shared some of his thoughts here.
The day started with some morning entertainment by Detachment 1, 40th Infantry Division Band (IDB). Next Diane D. Miller, chairperson, Sacramento Host Committee officially welcomed everyone. The formalities began with a presentation of colors by the California State Honor Guard accompanied by the IDB. The National Anthem from the MLK Celebration Choir was next and very well received. And continuing on that patriotic note was the Pledge of Allegiance by Matthew Ceccato (Veteran’s Services) and the invocation by Malissa Mallett, Combat Stress Recovery Manager with the Wounded Warrior Project which was given a separate and special recognition here.
Vivek Ranadivé, owner and chairman of the Sacramento Kings spoke first. He said that it was an honor and a privilege for him to be here with the “World’s greatest Governor” (the audience took that one well), in the world’s greatest state in the world’s greatest country. And he shared some ideas here as to how and when Sacramento will become the world’s greatest city. To digress here, many “Sacramentans” including this writer feel that as the Capital of California, a beautiful river city about 2.5 hours’ drive away from both the wonderful Pacific shores and scenic Lake Tahoe has not received the recognition that it deserves; as it has always been overshadowed by the San Francisco Bay Area, the glitter of Los Angeles and the charm of San Diego. The Sacramento region today remains the most affordable and attractive large metropolitan area in California, and the bottom line is that it is a great place to raise a family. But if it continues to attract the attention of the leaders of big business like Vivek Ranadivé, we may not be underrated much longer! It was a wonderful speech by Vivek here where he shared some of his personal life history and his journey to America with $50 in his pocket. He said that we live in exciting times and that we are embarking on a new era, one he called “Civilization 3.0,” a time of extreme innovation, much of that will be driven by California. It will be a change that truly makes the world a better place, he said.
After a video presentation promoting California, Joseph M. Otting, chair, Board of Directors California Chamber of Commerce addressed the gathering. He said that 90 years of this event adds to its significance. He also thanked the members of our armed forces for the sacrifices that they have made and continue to make. He shared some California Chamber of Commerce facts, its history and mission. He said that one in ten people in America live in California, which also contains the highest (Mt. Whitney) and lowest (Death Valley) points in the continental United States (and a probable reason as to why we have so many highs and lows in our state!). He said that there are some huge challenges here including the current drought which need to be addressed.
And the man who has had to tackle those challenges (after a promotional video) spoke next. Governor Jerry Brown is in his 4th term in the Governor’s office and has been known as a “fiscally conservative” Democrat. What some of us may not have been aware of is that he is also a very entertaining speaker and after this speech delivered there was no doubt left on his speaking abilities. He started his speech by saying that it was hard to believe that just a few years ago some were saying that California was ungovernable and America’s first “failed state” and that it is doomed. He said that this was certainly not the mood (today) in this room or in California, from a state which was billions of dollars in deficit to a surplus now. He said that he has had to say no to certain expenditures even if they were something good. He spoke of Proposition 1, investment (through engineering) in water storage and distribution (the drought featured prominently in his speech). “It is complicated,” Governor Brown said. We have got challenges (in California) and we are responding. He spoke of efficiency, entrepreneurship and invention, through which we are going to make it all work. Governor Brown spoke of high mileage efficient cars, increased use of renewable energy (cheaper solar and wind power) and investment in a “smart grid.” He spoke of an MOU with other states and across the border into Canada to cooperate in the efficient energy sector. He also said that climate change which impacts us here is a global issue and has to be addressed globally.
The Governor switched to important local issues and said that the benefits to California’s economic turnaround must also benefit people working on minimum wages. “They are Californian’s too,” he said. He said that the state has added 4 million people to the ranks of those with health care and that instead of 8 million, now 12 million people have health insurance. He spoke of increased investment in education locally. He also said that minimum wage in the state will be going up and that really low income workers could be getting back money. He added that current surpluses should be used wisely and that the state should save in a “Rainy Day Fund” and spend it on schools, an investment in the future. He added that California is still an incredible opportunity that is drawing people today. He added that that the challenge (today) is not that the swamp needs to be drained. (Governor Brown’s Grizzly Bear joke will remain with the people who attended the breakfast!)