Thinking big

Let’s celebrate Sacramento’s unique diversity

Check out the mayor's initiative for a new entertainment and sports complex at
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno. His column, Greenlight, appears weekly in this space.

I love the idea of thinking big. And I love that our mayor wants to think big. Certainly, Sacramento has benefited from those who thought big in the creative expansion of the Crocker Art Museum.

But I’d like to challenge the mayor to expand his horizons beyond professional sports. There are many great cities with professional sports teams, but there are also great cities without, such as Austin.

Speaking of sports, ice-hockey legend Wayne Gretzky had real insight when he said, “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”

So, the question is: “Where is Sacramento going to be?”

In an intriguing book, After America: Narratives for the Next Global Age, journalist Paul Starobin argues that American dominance of the world will soon be coming to an end. He also spends considerable time discussing California and believes that this state is far ahead of the rest of the country in embracing a new way of thinking. In the traditional model of the American melting pot, we take people from all around the world—different religions, cultures, food and languages—and then melt them all into Americans.

But in California, we have switched to a new mind-set: Bring us your different traditions, cultures, music and foods, and we will celebrate their diversity.

Starobin believes that California is better suited to adapt to the new world order. And I believe that embracing our cultural diversity is more our puck than professional sports. Don’t get me wrong—I love professional sports. I follow them religiously. This week, I was bummed that my beloved Cleveland Indians lost their seventh straight game.

Nevertheless, I still managed to have a great weekend. My English mother-in-law saw our ad for a new French bakery on K Street, Estelle’s Patisserie, and suggested that we have a Saturday brunch. It was great.

On the way there, we were surrounded by hundreds of happy people who had just participated in the 3-mile Color Run, an event inspired by an Indian tradition. They were covered in colorful chalk, which had been sprayed over them.

At brunch, we heard about my daughter’s recent road trip with her Danish friends visiting Yosemite and Grand Canyon national parks. She met them on a Sacramento Rotary Student Exchange Program to Denmark.

In Sacramento, the Spiritual Life Center held its Easter services at a mosque. Half of our schoolchildren are first- and second-generation Americans. Nearly 20 percent of marriages are interracial, including our mayor’s. We are truly a diverse and wonderful city.

I believe that “thinking big” could involve hundreds of small events that celebrate our diversity. There are only 81 home games in a baseball season. The year has 365 days to think big.