The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights
§3 – The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
I wanted to visit Sacramento for the longest time. During my college days in the Bay Area, I often heard about parties and events taking place there, but for whatever reason, I never made it to any of them. More recently, whenever I’d share my desire to visit Sacramento with friends or co-workers, they’d give me a puzzled look and ask why.
Why? Well, because it’s our state’s capital, and for that reason alone, isn’t it worth a visit? That question was always answered with a resounding “no!” I was told that there’s nothing to do in Sacramento, it’s boring, and that I wasn’t missing out on anything.
Still, my curiosity wouldn’t let my desire die. As a native Californian, a taxpayer, and faithful voter, I felt that it was my right and my responsibility to visit the seat of my state’s government. So this past Labor Day, despite being short on time, Jave and I hit the road for the nearly 400-mile drive from L.A. to Sacramento for an overnight stay. That’s how committed I was to the idea of experiencing my state’s capital firsthand.
The first item of business when we got to town was to take a free tour of the California State Capitol Museum. That’s right – the capitol building doubles as both a museum and the central nerve of the Californian government. Located at 10th and L Streets, the building’s dome was a grand, albeit expected sight to behold.
But what I wasn’t expecting were the various species of trees around the property’s Capitol Park. In the park you’ll see over 1,100 trees in 200 different varieties.
The park also features Civil and Vietnam War memorials and a statue in honor of Father Junípero Serra who was a Catholic missionary. We didn’t visit any of these memorials as we didn’t want to miss out on the last free tour of the day.
Once inside and after making our way through security, I was quite impressed by the enormity of the capitol building, the artwork on display, and all of the intricate details.
The tour started with a visit to the old State Treasurer’s office which dates back to 1906. Back then, the treasurer was responsible for collecting taxes and safeguarding the collected funds. Nowadays, state funds can be deposited in commercial banks. The State Treasurer is now also responsible for raising revenue by selling bonds, ensuring that inactive funds are properly invested, and for proposing bills that will help finance the state’s public institutions and stimulate the economy.
Senatoris Est Civitatis Libertatem Tueri
— It is the duty of a senator to protect the liberty of the citizens
Next, we moved on to see where California’s laws are made. The above message is displayed under George Washington’s portrait in the Senate Gallery. As our guide translated the Latin words, I wondered if our state senators take this duty to heart when they come to work each day. Are citizens’ liberties really at the forefront of their thoughts when they consider which bills to pass and which ones to oppose?
En route to the Assembly Gallery, we passed by portraits of governors past…
Legislatorum Est Justas Leges Condere
— It is the duty of legislators to make just laws
The Assembly Gallery had a much brighter and warmer feel than the Senate Gallery. Our guide explained that the assembly members vote on laws electronically using push buttons, and their votes are displayed next to their names on the oblong, black screens located on either side of the Assembly Chamber. Given the fact that the state legislature proposes, analyzes, and argues over 6,000 bills in a two-year session, it’s no wonder that they vote electronically. Senators, on the other hand, vote by verbal roll-call.
As we left the Assembly Gallery, I once again wondered whether California’s lawmakers truly pass just laws. But then I recalled our democratic system of checks and balances and the fact that voting sessions are open to the general public who can view these proceedings from the balconies above (or on cable television if you’re unable to visit). And any laws that pass that are arguably unjust will more than likely be hashed out in California’s courtrooms.
Next, we proceeded to one of the building’s lower levels where I found one of my favorite exhibits – a hallway full of individual displays representing all of California’s counties. I didn’t realize just how many counties we have here in Cali, but I found a display of counties that I’ll be visiting in my future travels, as well as the display representing my home county – Los Angeles.
On this floor, you’ll also find Jerry Brown’s office – the current Governor of California. And just outside of his office, you’ll find a statue representing our state’s animal – the California grizzly bear. This bronze statue was purchased by Arnold Schwarzenegger during a trip he made to Colorado a few years ago when he was our governor.
I have to say that although I was a bit drained from our long drive and quick turnaround, our trip to Sacramento was well worth it for the chance to visit the capitol building alone. Not only did our visit remind me of California’s great history, but it also reaffirmed the importance of being a responsible and engaged citizen.
Not only is it our responsibility as citizens to choose our representatives and cast our votes wisely, but we also have a responsibility to keep our elected officials in check and hold them accountable for the decisions that they make on the gallery floors. Because without us, the government has no authority. That is the will of the people!
- If you’re itching to see the California State Capitol Museum but you’re not sure when you’ll make it to Sacramento, take a virtual tour.
- Check the museum’s website for contact and visiting info.
- If you live in the Sacramento area or will be visiting and would like to volunteer at the museum, find out how to apply.