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Editorial notebook: Why T-day should be a golden moment

As President Abraham Lincoln originally envisioned Thanksgiving in that hard year of 1863, the purpose of his national holiday proclamation was to remember what was still intact in American life, to gather family and friends, and to be grateful. It still is, mostly, 150 years later.

Oh, and to watch football.

We’re not sure how the 16th president would have spent his Thanksgiving, but perhaps he’d be rooting for Washington over Atlanta, or enjoying a quick game of Wii with the grandkids. We’re certain he would prevail over them with malice toward none, and with charity for all.

Here in California, it has become table fare to ladle woe about the state’s various problems like a thick gravy, complain about overstuffed spending bills, try to get lobbyists to shut their pie holes, and mutter darkly about the turkeys in the Legislature. Many of the bad things are true, but there are also some very good reasons for Sacramento to be truly grateful for a few things on this 150th anniversary of Thanksgiving.

Sacramento – through the efforts of Mayor Kevin Johnson and thousands of devoted fans (and the deep pockets of a few trusty billionaires like Vivek Ranadive) – has managed to keep the Kings in town and make progress toward building a new arena. Losing the team would have been a crushing moment that would have deflated many in the region and stopped a lot of great downtown progress. It didn’t happen.

The energy that is building in downtown Sacramento and our region is contagious, and that is a reason to give thanks. Now if only DeMarcus Cousins and his friends could play a bit more consistently, we’d have even more reason to celebrate.

In the state Capitol, Gov. Jerry Brown, who was first elected to statewide office when there were a few Californians around who were actually alive during the Lincoln administration, has made some real progress in getting the state budget under control. With a new budget forecast suggesting that California may well be in surplus by 2017, we should – why not? – show a little gratitude.

No, this is not license to have a second helping at the table, and Brown has been good at holding back dessert. The Legislature actually got things done, and, despite the usual sideshows (Calderon, et al.), California has received national attention this year for leading on human rights, technical innovation and for having a health care website that actually performs as advertised.

Finally, as toxic as the Sacramento political atmosphere can be, we should also give thanks that we have a state, despite its problems, that is unrivaled in its physical beauty and its capacity to innovate. Drive down Highway 1 from San Francisco to Santa Cruz, or better yet, ride your bike down that stretch. Stroll around the town square in Sonoma or hike in the Sierra. Marvel at San Diego’s shoreline, or immerse yourself in a movie from Hollywood. California is still a great place to live, and a place we can truly give thanks for.

And, God willing, next year, the Kings may break .500. As a president who would have made a fine basketball center, Lincoln would have wanted it that way.