Gov. Jerry Brown reflects on 'big sweep of history' at tree lighting event

Gov. Jerry Brown reflects on 'big sweep of history' at tree lighting event
Gov. Jerry Brown was joined by Angel Valencia-Ceja, an 8-year-old from Vallejo, at the lighting of the Capitol Christmas tree on Thursday. (Melanie Mason / Los Angeles Times)

SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown reflected on the tradition and history of Christmas in his remarks Thursday at the lighting of the Capitol Christmas tree.

"I was just thinking as I sat there -- with the moon coming up and that Grecian Capitol building of ours and the tree and the event -- that we're all celebrating something very, very old," Brown said. "Christmas goes back to Bethlehem, so many thousand years ago."


Brown also slipped in a bit of California history in his brief remarks, telling the audience that the first European to come to California was on his mind.

"I won't bother to tell you what his name is," he said. "You learn that in fourth grade and if you forgot, go to Google."

It's Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, for those not inclined to look it up. Brown did not elaborate on why the explorer was in his thoughts at the Christmas celebration.

In the Capitol, Brown said, "We have a lot of political back and forth, which is of the moment. But in the big sweep of history, we are definitely standing on the shoulders of other people. And our state, while relatively young compared to many other places, is steeped in so many wonderful stories and memories. And certainly Christmas is that for me."

The governor was joined by his wife, Anne Gust Brown, and dog, Sutter. Angel Valencia-Ceja, an 8-year-old from Vallejo, helped light the tree.

"That is pretty darn good," Brown said of the 55-foot red fir tree decorated with over 500 ornaments and 10,000 ultra-low-wattage LED lights. "I like that tree."

The ceremony featured remarks by the state's Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera, and performances by the Sacramento St. Paul's Baptist Church Choir and Vocal Rush, a singing group from the Oakland School for the Arts.

Among the attendees at the event were Secretary of State Debra Bowen, Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley and members from the Legislature, including Assembly GOP leader Connie Conway (R-Tulare).

Assemblyman Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova) brought his wife, daughter-in-law and two granddaughters to the event.

"I'm here just to enjoy how my granddaughters react to the proceedings," Cooley said before the ceremony began. "I think there will be moments where they're bored, and animated -- which is the charitable way to put it. But I think when the lights go on, it will be a very wondrous moment for them."


Twitter: @melmason