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Activists, artists among 8 named to California Hall of Fame

December 5, 2018

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Eight Californians known for their activism, artistry and historic achievements were inducted Tuesday into the California Hall of Fame in an event that mixed celebratory glitz and glamor with calls for greater attention to global issues like climate change.

The class was the last selected by Gov. Jerry Brown, another pioneering Californian who leaves office in January after serving a record four terms. He joked after walking the red carpet that he wouldn’t have thought to create such an event, a tradition begun by his predecessor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006.

“I like things a little lower key,” Brown joked before introducing Joan Baez. “I’m a minimalist and this is not a minimal kind of event.”

Baez, a musician and activist, used the stage to read a poem she wrote about California’s destructive wildfires and to call attention to global climate change.

“There’s no such thing as a slow burn now, only lightning fast destruction and the residue of floating ash,” she said. “The truth is the world is heating up; the lie is everything will be fine.”

Baez was inducted alongside Robert Redford; baseball legend Fernando Valenzuela; scientist and mountaineer Arlene Blum; journalist Belva Davis; restaurateur Thomas Keller; former San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee; and Nancy McFadden, a political adviser to Brown and other Democrats. Lee and McFadden were honored posthumously.

“You can’t dream of these things,” Keller said.

The inductees began the evening with a walk down the red carpet outside the California Museum, where the Hall of Fame is housed, in downtown Sacramento. They stopped to answer questions from elementary school children before posing for photos and later talked to reporters.

Several dozen fans waited anxiously on the sidewalk to see either Redford or Valenzuela, hoping for autographs and photos. Valenzuela stopped for some, but Redford appeared on the red carpet only briefly.

Redford, a longtime environmental activist, avoided political statements on stage.

“I really couldn’t be in better company,” he said. “The fact that I am a native Californian has special meaning for me tonight.”

Blum, whose scientific research helped spur the removal of harmful chemicals from everyday products, followed Baez in calling for greater action against climate change and the use of toxic chemicals.

“These problems are solvable,” she said.

Brown brought his characteristic cerebral style to the event, reflecting on the need to honor the past without getting stuck in it.

“We don’t want to think we’re just ready to be put in a museum,” he said. “Whatever you folks have done, don’t stop now, keep going. I say the same thing about California.”

Brown, though, might soon find himself in this very museum. Governor-elect Gavin Newsom hinted to reporters Brown would be the obvious choice for his first class of inductees.

“I’m not just saying this because I’m lieutenant governor and I should say it,” he quipped.

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