Missing a historic event?
Three summers ago I had a one-on-one interview with Gray Davis in the governor's office to talk exclusively about the coming opening of the California State University, Channel Islands campus. He said nothing remarkable during the time we sat at his desk -- the predictable utterings of a politician about the importance of access to higher education, how much the campus would mean to the local economy, all the usual stuff.
But as we walked to the door, after I had turned off the tape recorder and put away the notebook, Davis relaxed and engaged in some refreshing introspection. He mused that all the things that a governor sweats over from day to day -- budget decisions, bill negotiations and the like -- are in reality of small and temporary consequence. There will always be another budget the next year. Opening a university, he mused -- that's something that will last forever, a historic event that will help shape hundreds of thousands of lives through the years. He seemed genuinely humbled -- a quality that generally seems in short supply in the office he occupied -- as he prepared to give the keynote speech at the CSUCI opening. He even went out of his way to note that most of the credit for the university's creation should go to his predecessor, Pete Wilson.
At least Davis got it.
The Modesto Bee reports today that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has informed officials of the University of California at Merced campus that he will be unable to attend its official opening on Labor Day. The reason given: The governor has an extraordinarily busy schedule of public events in the weeks ahead.
It might be noted that among them are 17 campaign fund-raisers packed into the period between Aug. 17 and Sept. 23. They include a barbeque in New Jersey on Saturday and a private box at which he is hosting contributors at the Rolling Stones concert in Boston's Fenway Park on Sunday.
Davis and former Gov. George Deukmejian will be among the dignitaries who will be attending the opening of the Merced campus -- just the 10th in the University of California system.
To be sure, Schwarzenegger might be gunshy these days about appearing at such public events, at which protestors would be almost certain to follow. If they were to spoil the UC Merced opening, shame on them. But the fact is that long after the Great Ballot War of 2005 has ended, long after all these policy fights that seem so important to the governor and his staff now, long after Schwarzenegger has been either booted out or termed out of office, that university campus will be standing. Twenty years from now, as he looks back on his governorship, Schwarzenegger will wish he would have been there.
His advisers ought to reconsider.