A Tribute to a Great Leader
There are many reasons why Tom Menino was Boston’s longest standing Mayor in the history of this tremendous city. But I’ve got one personal experience to share that proved to me about 18 years ago that he was a great, caring man.
During my radio and TV days, I would occasionally get calls from groups looking for a speaker. One such call came from an aide to Tom Menino at the Mayor’s office. Mayor Menino wanted to put together an educational program for the self-employed owners of child day care facilities within the neighborhoods of the City. He envisioned this program as “Owning a Business – 101”, and wanted me to talk about everything from bookkeeping and paying expenses through the pricing of services, insurance and employees.
Being a city boy from the streets of NY, I was excited to go back to an environment I knew well, to help the Mayor with his vision. At the time, his vision was to make all the neighborhoods of Boston livable, with employment and provide both the essential and recreational opportunities within each neighborhood so that they could thrive. He was adamant that each of these neighborhoods needed well run independently owned child care facilities throughout the city, so that everyone from single moms to large families could get out and work to afford the lifestyle they aspired to have.
Yes, he wanted to attract families to Back Bay and Beacon Hill, but he also wanted this to be true for those in Mattapan, Dorchester, and Roxbury and areas where we were told not to be near as a young Bentley Student exploring Boston. Of course Boston, similar to every other city, has its rougher neighborhoods, but overall, you would have to say that Mayor Menino achieved his vision for Boston.
He achieved it by hard work and placing his feet on the street; which I had witnessed first-hand. The first session that I had scheduled for the child day care owners was a Saturday Morning on the campus of Boston Latin HS. It was my first time there and I will say that it is quite the impressive place. Having delivered hundreds of courses and lectures up to that point in my life, I was excited to be on stage representing the City of Boston and wondered how I would open my talk.
The prior week, the young Mayor Menino was in the news for a very bad flu that actually kept him out of the office a bit that week. So I thought that I’d open by paying tribute to the leadership that the Mayor had exhibited by providing this free opportunity for these aspiring entrepreneurs to pull themselves from poverty and raise the lifestyle for themselves, their children and neighbors. But I was asked by someone from the Mayor’s office if I’d mind starting about ten minutes late, because the Mayor was stopping by to say a few words as the event was about to begin. I was floored.
A horse voice and an obviously not well rested Tom Menino came to the front of the room and delivered a great opening talk to fire up the predominantly minority women audience. His method of firing them up was painting a picture of their bigger, better future as he envisioned them with nice restaurants where boarded up buildings then sat and beautiful residential housing in empty brick buildings around the city. Overall, I’d say that Mayor Menino gave me the most flattering and motivational introduction that I’ve ever had on any stage.
For the rest of his 20 year term as Mayor of Boston, Menino never gave up. The results are in. People are flocking to Boston from the burbs. Prices in top neighborhoods now rival New York, LA and San Francisco. New AAA office buildings abound in areas that we used to pay six bucks a day to park.
And at the occasional event where I’d see Mayor Menino, he’d always look me in the eye and say “Hi John.” I wish I knew him better. But every time I go downtown, I am reminded by his vision and am proud to have had my brief moment of fame with Tom Menino. Rest in Peace Mayor Menino. We thank you for what you have left behind for us to enjoy and cherish.
This article was written by John P. Napolitano