The Greatness of a City
Posted by Comments (45)on Monday, February 28, 2005
It seems that many people enjoy discussing the relative merits of San Jose as a city of significance. While I personally dislike the word, “great” and never used it in my time as Mayor, I’ll play along for a while.
In the Spring of 1989, San Francisico Mayor Art Agnos and I led a trade mission - alright a junket but with a purpose - to China. It was a heady time and we arrived in Bejing during a brief respite, while the democracy movement was in the balance and the forces of autocracy had yet to determine which course to take. It was a very historic moment.
There were many members of the press accompanying us and they were focused on just one thing – no, not the seminal uprising of a wonderful and doomed movement, and not the shifting passions of over one billion human beings. They were all fascinated by the fact that, just that week, San Jose had passed San Francisco in population!
Now, I tried to deflect their questions, saying that the size of a city does not matter - nor does the height of her buildings or the rhetoric of her Mayor; being a “good” city with sound neighborhoods and good jobs was what mattered. All was to no avail. My comments were cut more quickly than a Chris Rock quip on Fox News.
The press moved on and quickly got many inane comments, including one from John Burton to the effect that San Jose could not carry SF’s jock – a real class act, that one. The dumb story was the easy one. They wallowed in the challenge to “greatness.” Nowhere did it appear that our city was barely thirty years old, but San Francisco had been the cultural and financial center of the West for 150 years. It was useless to reason.
And what of the word?
Now, “great’ can mean “large” or “remarkable” or even “distinguished;” and “greatness” can merely be in the eye of the beholder. Yet, if you consider the fact that something of remarkable significance happened in San Jose when the first immigrant followed that age-old dream, then you are closing in on the answer. Magnificent things happened when that small entrepreneur opened a corner grocery or got a first patent, and it continues to happen each and every day in San Jose. Perhaps we can soon use such a mighty word.
San Jose is all about promise, hope and following dreams, no matter what the naysayers and cynics contend. The future is with dreamers, not those faint of heart.
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