Becoming the New California

Last weekend, I spent the day selling tickets at FiestaVal, the annual carnival at my sons’ elementary school in the Mission District. I chatted with the remarkable range of parents—Juana, leading the Latina community; Arlene, teacher and education activist; John, our favorite wine merchant; and Griselda, soccer mom and house cleaner. We all get together on days like FiestaVal to hang out, eat, help our kids win goldfish and just be a community.

Seeing all this in action draws me back to some “New California” thinking by a few colleagues and Fenton clients. It articulates an energy that’s been building in our state over the last decade. There are some noticeable signs that California is moving away from the destructive Prop 187, all-for-me, none-for-them, anti-government ideology of the 80’s. Voters are increasingly supportive of education initiatives, health care reform and immigration reform. We appear to be shedding that scaly, old skin – and morphing into the New California.

Our client Dr. Manuel Pastor, USC professor and immigration expert, describes this change when speaking about his research on immigrant integration in California. He points to the Californian DREAMers, a group of young undocumented immigrants whose energy and activism moved California on the DREAM Act early on.

I see that same energy and optimism at Fairmount Elementary, where parents who came here for better lives are focused on the future and invested in their kids’ education. So it didn’t surprise me last week when I heard how recent focus groups of Latino parents talked about how closely they link their kids’ survival and success to family support. Many of these parents are struggling to survive; they need job skills or education to break through poverty. Yet, they are incredibly motivated to make it here—and to catapult their children into the middle class.

It is that positive focus on the future that can help fuel a California comeback. As Irvine Foundation President Jim Canales pointed out in recent blog post: “Consider as well that there is plenty of evidence that optimism has a positive effect on human mental and physical health. We should carry that scientific evidence to have a positive effect on California’s body politic.”

A few months ago, State Sen. Ellen Corbett introduced legislation sponsored by Tesla and others to promote a “Made in California” label for energy efficient and environmentally-safe manufactured goods. But “Made In California” could be more than a label for cars or solar panels; it could also mark a commitment to an idea made in California that lays claim to investing in our populace—kids and adults alike—to build a power economy to fuel the future. “Made in California” is the label for the New California.