Where is California headed in 2013?
To hear Gov. Jerry Brown tell it, the answer lies in references to the Book of Genesis, the legacy of the Golden State's pioneers, and the Little Engine That Could... just to name a few.
"This is my eleventh year in the job and I have never been more excited," said Brown as he wrapped up Thursday morning's State of the State, a speech lasting around 25 minutes.
The governor used his now familiar speaking style, a mix of details and dreaming, to make the case that the Golden State has turned the corner.
"Governing never ends," said Brown. "We have promises to keep."
The speech was full of specific ideas -- an affirmation of his intent to run a tight fiscal ship of state, a defense of his education plan to loosen the state's mandates and focus more money on the students with the greatest needs.
(Classic Brown: "Lay the Ten Commandments next to the California education code and you will see how far we have diverged in approach and in content from that which forms the basis of our legal system.")
His greatest applause line seemed to come during the education comments, in his insistence that the cost of a college degree in California must not continue to rise.
"I'm not going to let the students become the default financiers of our colleges and universities," he boomed into the Assembly dais microphone over the applause of legislators and guests.
But the third State of the State of his third term as governor showed Brown, who will be 75 in April, as a politician more keenly aware of the long arc of history than ever before. His defense of high speed rail and a Delta water solution was largely a plea for lawmakers to step back and see the bigger picture.
On water, the governor tried to point out the relatively cheap cost of his proposal for habitat restoration and a pair of underground, peripheral tunnels.
"The London Olympics lasted a short while and cost $14 billion, about the same cost as this project," he said. "But this project will serve California for hundreds of years."
And on high speed rail, it was the reference to the children's story of the Little Engine That Could -- an apparent adlib, as it wasn't in the prepared remarks handed out by his office.
The classic story that teaches perseverance to kids seemed to fit not just the train, but Brown's view on fixing what's been wrong with California.
"I think I can, I think I can," said Brown. "And over the mountain, the little engine went. And we're going to get over that mountain."