California: More than a state, it’s a state of mind

When traveling abroad, I have yet to meet the person who hasn't heard of California. Their idea of the state may be somewhat removed from reality, but the very word California elicits a smile of recognition.

What is it about this place that makes it a household name the world over?

It's partly our picture-perfect coastlines and snow-capped mountains. It's partly our

At the California Museum, we celebrate all the people who have been drawn to our environment of freedom, support for initiative and encouragement of ideas.

industries, epitomized by Hollywood and Silicon Valley. It's in large measure our people, who have had such a spectacular influence on the world.

But it's also an idea, one that has resonated for as long as the word California has been attached to a geographical location.

As historian and California State Librarian Emeritus Kevin Starr noted, "Of all the states in the union, only California has attached to its identity the concept of dream." In this California—half myth, half reality—the sky's the limit and anything is possible.

At the California Museum, we celebrate all the people who have been drawn to our environment of freedom, support for initiative and encouragement of ideas. Through the personal stories of people such as our California Hall of Fame inductees, we inspire our visitors to dream their own California dream.

But we also recognize the flip side—the times fear and prejudice have won out over justice, the people for whom the dream has remained out of reach. Through our exhibits and programs, we demonstrate how ordinary people have taken action to right those wrongs, and encourage our visitors to discover the ways they themselves can make a difference.

As an alumna of Sac State, I know first-hand that the University fosters a similar climate of engagement. It encourages its students to question accepted narratives, and to use history as a tool to understand our present and shape our future.

That's the way it should be, because in the end, it's education—whether in a museum or on a university campus—that holds the key to making the California dream a reality for all of us.

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