|Go to City
Hall Plaza, look up and try to
imagine the people inside. What are they like? What about the City's
satellite locations throughout Boston? Walk up to any employee and ask
No matter how gracious or helpful the person is, it is
still one person, one event, one experience at a time. The people comprising City of Boston services remain undefined.
Now schedule yourself to attend the State of the City Address on
January 11, 2011. What you discover is that this is the perfect
opportunity to see the many people who together work for
the City or who care about our City government.
It is also a chance to
gauge the tenor of the organization that Mayor Thomas Menino has put together
over his 18 years of governance.
|We arrived early on January 11 and
wound our way to the end of the long
fence that formed the waiting aisle for entry into Faneuil Hall. Ahead
of us, we could see people bypassing the line, so we tried getting in, too.
"Excuse me, I've got an invitation. Can I get in now?" "No,"
replied, "You need to wait in line."
Back in line we could hear the people around us talking about metal detectors and increased security
and how "they" must be setting up a lot of them inside. Seriously!
People said: "You can't be careful enough these days." And then they
talked about pat-downs and how they were hoping they wouldn't have to
go through that to get in.
At exactly 6:30 PM, the large battalion of police seemed to fade into
the background as we were motioned to enter Faneuil Hall. Bright
dotting the banister up to the second floor were handing out copies of
the State of the City 2011
Program. Printed on glossy card stock, it set an appropriate tone -
the City of Boston insignia on the front, and inside, a formal photo of
Mayor Menino and a simple list of the evening's events.
to the first floor seating was guarded. "I've got an
invitation. Can I sit on the first floor?" "No," he said
politely, his long arm pointing upwards, "Seating is on
the second floor."
Sitting on the second floor was in some ways an
advantage. Yes, we couldn't hobnob with what appeared to be the in-crowd on the first
floor, but we had the advantage of being able to look down and watch
|Taking it all in ...
Music sounding of coronations, inaugurations and royal events was
coming from somewhere and it sounded live. Yes, there it is -
a chamber orchestra to the right of the stage.
The crowd of people, mingling on the first floor, who were
they? Friends, family, special guests, the "best" at City
Hall? On the second floor and next to us, a retired eletrician who had
worked for the City and over there, Flavio, our Neighborhood Services
Rep and hundreds more.
But soon we were drawn to the centerpiece between the stage and the
seating area. The tall, modern looking, spacious wooden chair
stood like a throne but empty. Could this be for the Mayor?
Nowhere else did there seem to be a point of welcome for the
Mayor. Yes, it had to be - the chair of
for Mayor Menino in his final term in office.
Where was the Mayor? Look as you might, you
couldn't find the featured speaker anywhere in sight.
Several times a faceless voice called out over the people's hum: "The program
about to begin. Would you please take your seats. Please take your seats now."
On the first
there was so much movement and hugging and conversation and glowing
faces, it looked like there weren't enough people to fill the seats,
but there were. On the second floor, the seats filled and filled and
filled some more, until not one open spot remained.
|At precisely 7 PM the program opened
with the National Anthem, the
Pledge of Allegiance, the invocation and the Boston City Singers.
Simple, short, well done, these events set the stage for the evening's
primary focus, the Mayor's speech.
Where are you, Mayor Menino? Your chair remains yet empty. Then unannounced, we heard the Mayor's voice while two screens played
a video of the City of Boston 2010 accomplishments. Photos and
headlines rolled a chronologial log that took us back to those celebrated
Boston events while Mayor Menino's voice underscored what was
especially important to
When the video ended, 2010 was behind us. The stage was set for the one event remaining - the State of the
City Address 2011.
Yet the Mayor was nowhere to be found.
An announcer stepped forward and spoke briefly with an air of
"The Honorable Thomas M Menino, Mayor of Boston" and
everyone fell into applause.
On the first floor, people rose from their seats and turned, looking to
of the hall, watching what was only visible to them, their eyes
embracing an image we could not see, while time seemed to stand still.
waited, wondering: "What are they looking at? It must be
Mayor." Then from beneath the second floor balcony, we watched
a man emerge and take form, a man whose
gait was set by the crutches he wore. He moved slowly, one
careful and well-thought-out step at a time. The more progress he
made, the more clapping we heard. The people had turned
into a cheering crowd.
"Come on, Mayor Menino! You can do
it. You can get to the finish line."
The Mayor and his crutches made their way forward - another step
up and a short walk to center stage. He removed his
crutches, placing them behind the chair, and stepped forward to the
podium, his eyes twinkling as he greeted us and expressed
More than to anyone else, he expressed a memorable "Thank
you" to his wife Angela whom he called his Florence Nightingale. She
turned around, love radiating from her face, and waved to all of us.
|Mayor Menino's State of the
City 2011 address is neither the purpose nor the focus of
our words here today. The Mayor prepared his speech in advance.
words were broadcast live on Channel 5. He delivered it well and
Read prepared text of State of City 2011 address
interested us were the people in attendance - the first floor, the
second floor, the press, the rapt attention being paid by everyone to
the speaker in front.
Come alive here this night were the people who work for the City inside the building
and behind its cold, poured concrete facade. These were the faces
we could only
imagine when we looked up at City Hall from the plaza below.
were the faces whose colors we couldn't know, not the ages, the
genders, the personalities, not the warmth and not the spirit of
cooperation and teamwork. Come alive, visible, faceless no more.
Mayor Menino is an intelligent spokesperson and visionary for a tough
agenda - guiding us onto a path of economic and social recovery and
leading Boston to become a sustainable and prosperous City of the
World. You can't do this as a single person. It requires a team
cooperative, even devoted people who understand the vision and want to
make it happen.
At the close of the Mayor's speech, we watched below us the
congratulatory hugging and celebrating amongst the people on the first
floor. And we listened around us to the balcony crowd where we were.
The group energy, earlier centered on a single point delivery, was
dispersing throughout the hall like a wave. Around us the air was
the people abuzz with conversation. It seems they had enjoyed the
they had liked what they heard.
"That was a really good speech."