In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt decided to flex America’s naval muscle. He sent what became known as the Great White Fleet on a 14 month world tour, beginning and ending at Hampton Roads, Virginia.
At that time San Francisco dominated California’s business world, with its spacious harbor and population. Los Angeles, the second largest city, became the major terminal in Southern California. That left San Diego, with a shallow bay (25 feet at its opening), and 37,000 people, a tenth of San Francisco’s and a back country that was “almost impenetrable”.
San Diego’s business leaders, led by William Kettner, determined to seize the opportunity the Fleet presented. With their congressmen, they intensely and successfully lobbied the Navy to make San Diego the first West Coast port of call (conveniently the first port of call in four months).
The city prepared their welcome carefully. The appointed committee spent $20,000—more like $500,000 today. Trains brought thousands into the city to see the $6,000 spent on bunting garlanded everywhere. Each of the 5,000 sailors received a boutonniere. Farmers donated 33,000 oranges. Businesses hosted banquets and social groups held balls. A parade witnessed by 75,000 jubilant spectators led east from the bay to Fourth Street, then north to Laurel and east into Balboa Park.
The city’s enthusiasm, with its obvious geographical benefits, made the impression community leaders sought. Kettner’s leadership led to election to Congress where his efforts led to the military-build up that lasts to this day. San Diego Union Tribune, 4/13/08
No doubt exists that San Diego would have sometime become a major player in business and the military. The city planners merely expedited the schedule by seizing the opportunity presented by the Fleet’s arrival.
Shakespeare may have been right about a “tide in the affairs of men”, but opportunity does return in various forms—a true blessing from God. The sooner we see it come, and exploit it, the better for us. Here’s to a great 2015 in seeing and seizing opportunities to serve Jesus.