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The Riggs Report: A break from bad news

December 7, 2017

California Hall of Fame grows by nine

Gov. Jerry Brown, passing me in the aisle, extended a high five and enthused about the just-concluded California Hall of Fame event on Tuesday night, calling it “a really inspirational event.”

It would be hard to disagree with that description.

At a time when there’s plenty of negative news to go around—criticism of the federal tax bill, reports of sexual harassment at the state Capitol, the destructive wildfires in Southern California—the governor and a host of others took a break this week to continue a tradition of honoring Californians for their contributions on the world stage.

This week’s red carpet event and induction ceremony at the California Museum in downtown Sacramento honored former Oakland Raiders quarterback Jim Plunkett, who led the team to two Super Bowl wins, and filmmaker Steven Spielberg, responsible for “Jaws,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Saving Private Ryan” and other iconic movies. Lucille Ball, of “I Love Lucy” fame, was honored posthumously.

The others honored Tuesday are not so well-known, and that is part of the point—to raise the profile of the contributions made by some extraordinary California citizens who come from the worlds of science, arts and horticulture.

Those inducted into the Hall of Fame included prominent Napa winemaker Warren Winiarski, San Francisco Symphony Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas, poet and environmental writer Gary Snyder, bioscientist Sue Desmond-Hellman, Native American artist Mabel McKay (posthumously) and atmospheric chemist Mario Molina.

Spielberg, in remarks delivered inside the auditorium, noted that he had been raised primarily in Scottsdale, Arizona before moving to Northern California while in high school. And although he has spent his entire adult life in Southern California, Spielberg said it was his induction into the Hall of Fame that made him truly feel, for the first time, like a native Californian.

The Hall of Fame was launched in 2006 under then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and first lady Maria Shriver.

In the 11 years since then, the roster has grown to include names like Harrison Ford, Tony Gwynn, Sacramento’s Lester Holt, Joe Montana, Buzz Aldrin, Chuck Yeager, Charles Schulz and George Lucas.

Sacramento’s not really a red carpet kind of town, as one honoree joked, but it seems to work.

The Modesto Raiders youth football team was on hand Tuesday night as part of the onlookers, reporters and photographers jostled, the honorees walked before a modest crowd, and a new group of Californians became part of the Hall of Fame—a unique honors society of Golden State talent.