We have never officially met face to face. That is more my fault than yours. You have been accessible, I have never had the courage to just walk up and tell you “Thanks”.
I grew up in the city. When I was still a boy, my parents bought a home out in the country. It was on Georgia Avenue and I always found comfort in the fact that the road in front of my house would take me right to Griffith Stadium or the Wonder Bread bakery across the street from the stadium.
I was just an oblivious teenager when I first heard your name. The country was in the midst of change. The civil rights movement was gaining traction. You had come to town and as best I remember you began Pride, Inc. I am not sure if the summer work program was part of Pride or if it was something else. I do know that you changed the face of Washington forever. You gave the children hope. You gave young adults hope. You were a man that they believed in. You gave a face to all those that suffered in parts of the city most Washingtonians wanted to forget.
You continued your effort to help the children and got elected to the school board. You moved right on up and finally served as the President of the school board. You fought for better tools, better facilities and better accommodations. Congress controlled the money. You won the peoples hearts. You became larger than life and the congress could no longer ignore the needs of the city.
You took it to the next step and ran for Mayor. You won. You took over a paper mache bureaucracy and shaped the foundation of the government that operates today. It was not perfect. Your success was a slap in the face of those that initiated home rule with hopes the District would fail.You served and you represented every citizen of the city. You stood up to politicians, industry and red tape. You used your guile and your people skills to bring services to everyone. You took all those congressional lemons and made the finest lemonade. They called you mayor for life!
You faltered. Much was made of your mistake. You did not hide it. You admitted your weakness. In the face of national ridicule, you stood up and looked everyone in the eye. The national media attempted to make you a lauging stock, in the end, the joke was on them. You got knocked down a peg, took your medicine and came right back and got elected mayor again. You have withstood barbs and jokes and ridicule. You have truly held your head high and the people that elected you are the only jury that will ever matter. You were a voice calling out for them. You spoke for those who were silent. You spoke for those that were afraid. You spoke for those that did not believe they had a right to speak. You spoke.
Now, you serve as a councilman. You still work for the people. You have been through more trials and tribulations than any other public person I am aware. You have come through the public gauntlet battered, bruised but never beaten. You represent people, sun up to sun down. You have always stood tall and never backed down from a fight. Regardless of how high you have moved up the ladder of success, you have always remembered the people that you have promised to represent. To me, you will always be “mayor for life.”
Much has been made over the years regarding the times that you have fallen. Little has been mentioned about all the good that you have done. You still remain the lightning rod for media attention any time that their is a hint you may have done something wrong. Well, enough is enough.
We have grown from the dreams of our youth to enjoy the memories of old age. If no one else takes the time, I want to thank you for all you have done for the city and those that had no one else looking out for them. I should have written the post when I sold Mrs. Deering’s home. You remember her. She worked for you for years and let me rant about the unfair treatment you have received before she let me know she knew you.
As the sun sets, you are a good man.