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Annals of Mayoral Inaugural Speeches: Richard J. Daley Gives the Most Boring Inaugural Speech Ever

The original Mayor Daley’s inaugural speech was something less than a barnburner, but encapsulated the man and his civics-class-era tenure as mayor.

While puttering around waiting for the inaugural festivities to get kicking, I went back and reread some old inaugural speeches. I lined up a few links and started reading what I thought was Richard M. Daley’s inaugural. But I didn’t think it sounded like him—too stiffly anachronistic, like something out of a World War II-era civics class:

Tonight we start our job of carrying out the mandate given us by our fellow citizens. I know you are as eager as I am to accept the challenge of making our neighborhoods and our city a better place in which to live. The structure of our city government follows the general pattern of American government in that it has legislative, executive and judicial branches. The legislative branch is the city council, the executive–the mayor.

This is a council governed city. The aldermen were selected by the voters in their wards to represent their will. The needs of the wards are various. In some wards the pressing need may be better police protection–in others, adequate sewage disposal–in still others, housing or conservation or transportation. The aldermen know intimately the needs of the people in their area. These people are their neighbors. So we find it natural that aldermen–representing their constituents–will be more concerned about some matters than others–that they will resist change in some endeavors and will welcome changes in others.

This is also true of representative government in Congress and in the State legislature. A natural consequence of this process is a slowing down of some governmental activity. In some instances the interests of all the people may be endangered or overlooked. It has been charged that the city of Chicago has been slow in achieving some urgently needed improvements. If at times the council has been slow, it is because aldermen and community leaders have been striving to protect their people and their neighborhoods.

[snip]

The City Council has under consideration measures which will improve and modernize city government. I refer to the proposals of the Home Rule Commission.

Sure enough, that was Richard J. Daley, circa 1955. It actually gets more interesting after that, but I was actually impressed by Daley explaining How a Bill Becomes a Law. If Emanuel kicked off with an explanation of the tripartite structure of American government, people would be falling asleep in the aisles. American political rhetoric ain’t what it used to be.

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