For Marty Walsh’s big debut on center stage, set spectacularly this morning at his Boston College alma mater, the new mayor played it relatively safe. From student guests of honor pledging and singing–always a guaranteed crowd pleaser–to glowing words from the rhetorically heartwarming likes of Governor Deval Patrick, there was little chance of the event fouling save for technical difficulties, of which there were fortunately none. Prudently, Walsh didn’t parachute in from the bleachers, and though he walked swiftly through the painted corridor like an Eagle ready for game time, there was no thunderous theme music or light show.
The speech following the oath was similarly tame. The mayor spoke about the community service days and public input forums his transition team has organized thus far, and of Boston’s proud history of fighting tyranny, standing up to slavery, and “[opening] our doors to immigrants.” He also spoke passionately about gun violence and recovery, as always, and stated general municipal goals we’ve heard before: “Strengthening our economy and creating jobs;” “Improving public safety and stopping senseless gun violence;” “Ensuring our schools help every child to succeed;” “Increasing trust and transparency in city government.”
For progressives or really anybody looking for a standout comment, the only juicy words came toward the end, long after Walsh addressed key topics like crime, unity, and education. Sticking out in his barrage of closing shoutouts was a line he’s used other iterations of before–including at his victory party last November–and one that isn’t likely uttered very often at inaugurals these days, here or anyplace else. It was anything but subtle, and in a lot of locales, Walsh would already have been slimed by conservatives for such remarks. His infinitely important and memorable line:
a salute to his “sisters and brothers in the Labor movement, who fight every day to build the middle class.”
— Chris Faraone (@Fara1) January 6, 2014
Walsh, who climbed from worker to organizer, and from Dorchester boy to state rep and now mayor, embraced his union background during the heated race and lead-up to Inauguration Day. It was a no-brainer; thanks to movement workers, his campaign had a citywide support structure, not to mention a million signs posted everywhere imaginable. Even when some awkward and embarrassing labor-friendly legislative votes came up, though, Walsh stood by his comrades. History will show he took an extraordinary amount of hell for it–not just from the vitriolic right, but also from comparably contemptuous neo-liberals.
The thought of cliché union toughs, or teachers, or any labor force hovering over Walsh–whether physically, in his consciousness, or both–should a lot more comforting than the idea of some Boston cousin of the Koch brothers pulling his administration’s strings. The new mayor may not have given an adventurous speech–perhaps Walsh felt he was taking enough of a gamble by having the shit-mouthed Lenny Clark host tonight’s festivities (we shall see)–but in a day and age when Democratic mayors like Rahm Emanuel have wet dreams about strangling unions, propping workers in your biggest career address is tantamount to throwing a trash can through a Bank of America window.