Having arrived in San Jose Saturday morning by sleeper train which, depending on your height, created divergent thoughts about its comfort, we were given the rest of the weekend to explore the surrounding area. Checking in at the hotel represented the space, comfort, and amenities we missed while on the train. The sun came out in the afternoon, and we followed its lead, going out and looking for somewhere to eat. My small group of four ended up at a Chipotle’s—a runner up to Panchero’s, but still good in its own right—so that we could eat quickly and have more time to explore the surrounding area. The Chipotle was a part of a large pedestrian mall, where brick pathways led customers from store to store, all while enjoying the beautiful 60 degree January weather of California. A few of the stores that we stopped in included Microsoft, Apple, and Tesla, all of which were very large and spread out. With beautiful wood floors and white walls, each store’s similar yet unique design and layout brought with it the style and flair of its products: innovative, luxurious, and stunning. It is no wonder, then, that these products mirror the areas they came from. From the creativity in the architecture, to the luxury cars driving down the street, to the beautiful landscape and weather, Silicon Valley (and by by extension, Seattle) is a place of incredible privilege. While this privilege is widespread, it is not all inclusive. When on Microsoft’s campus, a peer asked where all of the non-computer scientists were at. I responded that we had just passed dozens and dozens of them—they were serving the food and cleaning the tables. In the gated community of success and wealth that is Silicon Valley, education becomes the key.
Only a short walk away was one of the most highly esteemed places for education in the world, Stanford University. While on the walk to campus, it became evident why Stanford’s mascot is often misunderstood. The path along the road, as well as various parks nearby were filled with large trees of various kinds. Likewise, a tree can be seen parading the sidelines during Stanford sporting events, although only the unofficial mascot. Once on campus, the design and color of the buildings looks like that of a mission or religious order, with large plazas in between the dirt red and sun yellow colored buildings for cardinals and priests to walk around. Another unofficial mascot is the cardinal, although this is for the color, and not the religious title.
The intelligence, innovation, beauty, and affluence of both Stanford’s campus and the area at large are stark. It helps to perpetuate a culture which motivates and inspires those in and around it to change and improve themselves and their products, companies, or ideas. A hotbed for entrepreneurship, failure has no stigma, a lesson which could improve the lives of many who are fixed in their safe traditions.