|Palo Alto Centennial
by Dona Tversky
One of my fondest memories of growing up in Palo Alto is AYSO soccer, a program whose aim is to get kids of all ages, sizes and backgrounds out on the field to learn a little about the sport and a lot about teamwork. During games, everyone is guaranteed the same amount of playing time and kids can try playing every position. Every Saturday in the fall, the parks and schools of Palo Alto are cluttered with little red things attacking little blue things enclosed by a perimeter of cheering parents. The ritual includes four quarters of competition between the pairs of brightly clad teams, competition that vanishes at the end of the game.
Making it all possible is the support staff of coaches, referees and coordinators who keep the soccer organization alive. Many of these people are former players themselves, or parents, all of whom find pleasure in seeing the tradition continued.
Like the soccer league, Palo Alto derives its strength from networks of individuals and teams working in concert. Its population is diverse--there are people of different backgrounds and ages cooperating to preserve a safe and welcoming community. On the surface, everyone wears the same bright jersey of concern. Instead of divisiveness and factions resulting from our differences, a unity is created; everyone brings his own talents to create a larger good.
Hard work and motivation are valued. Inevitable disappointments are followed by good sportsmanship. Above all, everyone tries her best. There is a human element that dominates the thinking of Palo Alto. Like the building height limit downtown, the city values development and success--but not to the point where it obstructs the view. Palo Alto incorporates big-town business with small-town values--Hewlett-Packard and recycling, Stanford University and the parks, University Avenue and the Children's Zoo.
Last year, I had the opportunity to become an AYSO soccer coach myself. I found that nothing about the league's attitude had changed over the past 10 years. The kids still asked the same questions: Do I get to play goalie? Do I have to play goalie? Did we win? Although I knew I was helping others, coaching was a rewarding experience--a personal treat.
This, I believe, is what Palo Alto is about: wanting to return the favor. Our community works together to create a wonderful environment in which families and individuals can live happily. As a young person, or young family, we take advantage of the many resources available. We use the public libraries, we watch the May Fete Parade, we play AYSO soccer.
Then, so grateful for the memories, we transform our appreciation into more delightful memories for the next new kid or the next new family. We work at the libraries or help at the parade or coach an AYSO team. And it is a joy to do it.
There are few complaints about Palo Alto that do not also apply to the rest of the state and even the country. And there are certainly unique benefits to living Palo Alto that don't apply anywhere else. Whatever protective bubble Palo Alto may have is one that we should be thankful for. If only everyone could live here.
Palo Alto is trees and sun, clean air and shaded sidewalks. It is bicycles and parks. Palo Alto is coffeehouses and bookstores, big stores and small ones. But most of all, Palo Alto is people. The old and the young alike, both contributing to and prospering from the community.
The future of Palo Alto will be a combination of some now and some new. For this liberal, open-minded and conscientious community, I have a conservative request: Maintain the "now."
I hope the future generations of Palo Alto will continue the tradition of returning the favor, a tradition established only 100 years ago. Let's keep Palo Alto as wonderful a place to grow up for our children as it was for ourselves.
Dona Tversky is a senior at Palo Alto High School, where she is student body president and works on the school newspaper.