Assemblyman Ken Cooley opens 8/25/2020 Session with a reflective prayer on California’s Majestic Redwood Trees
August 26, 2020
Please join me in a reflection inspired by the forests of California.
This morning, the New York Times and the Big 3 networks are reporting that an updated survey in Big Basin State Park, California’s oldest, reveals most of its trees have survived the fires. Those woods, some of whose trees were young at the time of the Roman Empire, were noisy with life yesterday with squawking Stellar Jays and industrious woodpeckers.
This news notwithstanding, California’s forests are on all of our minds today.
It is right that this should be true. Trees have an undeniable majesty. A decade after Big Basin was established in 1902, the American poet Joyce Kilmer gained immortality when he wrote:
“I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree.”
Trees, whether abounding on a hillside, or magnificent with the loveliness of a lone silhouette, are the work of years. They are sculpted according to the winds that blow through them. Those winds are invisible, but they lift and move branches as a tide flowing among them. Pushing and shaping each bough and bud as they grow, each needle or leaf must adapt to the winds or be carried away. The trunks themselves grow in bulk to support the living and growing branches.
A hillside of California trees is a metaphor for the dynamism of life.
And just like the mightiest trees in the forest, American democracy, since its founding, has grown and been shaped by the insistent and far-reaching currents of
“We the People” and “In order to form a more perfect union”.
Because our democracy is derived from the lives and dreams of our people, this possibility of growth has always been in it. Indeed, this possibility of growth is inseparable from our humanity.
Matthew Henson, the famed African-American Arctic Explorer said at the start of the 20th century:
“Life is growth, life is progress, and progress depends on new ideas. Without the advent of new ideas, we should still be riding in stagecoaches and reading by the light of tallow candles.
Great ideals are the glory of man alone. No other creature can have them. Only man can get a vision and an inspiration that will lift him above the level of himself and send him forth against all opposition or any discouragement to do and to dare and to accomplish wonderful and great things for the world and for humanity.”
Further extending the hope and possibilities of our American Democracy is very clearly the work of our day. It is a positive work to thwart the impulse of tyranny, to model decency and respectful collaboration in human progress, and to keep faith with the vision of our nation’s founders and its constitution.
This week we continue that work.
Let it be said when we are done that in our day, the tree of American Democracy grew tall and strong amid the blowing winds of change and prospered as a refuge of light and the sounds of vibrant life, and did not become a silent and empty relic.