Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mayor bumps into a few people

By John DeStefano Jr.

He just can’t help himself. Bill Clinton, I mean.
He spoke to some 200 of us mayors Monday morning at the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting that began Saturday. Listening to him reminds you of all the reasons you first liked him. He talks to you, not at you. He explains. And he’s really smart. He keeps you looking forward, not backward.
Mostly he talked to us mayors about energy. About "green" jobs and about the economy as well as the opportunities and need to become energy independent and why all the banks still aren’t lending. He also had a good piece of advice for all of us: that we focus not so much on the size of the stimulus package, but on the "how." How will these investments create jobs? How will we get the banks back to work? How, Clinton says, is the most important questions for us Americans right now.
And then there was the important stuff. I mean the concert. That was the concert Sunday in front of the Lincoln Memorial. You know: Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crow, Beyonce, John Legend, U2, Springsteen. There was a security perimeter around the Reflecting Pool, just after the new World War II Memorial. We pushed through a crowd that looked mostly like our kids. Then on through security and on to the area around the Reflecting Pool.
And the crowd was up and it was happy. It also was very polite. Bump into someone and they apologize to you. Anyway, who do we see, but more Westville neighbors, Jack and Michelle Paulishen. Jack teaches history at Hillhouse High School and Michelle third grade at Edgewood School. And of course they had their son, Jackson, with them. So we hung out with them through the concert.
I have to confess I was glad no one else from New Haven was there when Kathy and I began singing along with Garth Brooks to the words of "American Pie." I thought Stevie Wonder singing "Higher Ground" was the best. Kathy liked "Shout," which also was done by Brooks. U2 doing "In the Name of Love," the Martin Luther King tribute, also was very cool. The crowd was huge. When we left the concert and saw the size of the crowd around the Washington Monument, I swore I’d never complain about the size of some of the crowds at the concerts on the New Haven Green again.
Anyway, back to Bill and Jack. Clinton said that the last election was not about moving left or right in our politics. Rather, he said, it was about moving forward. And I thought he got that right. Jack Paulishen said it another way.
Jack said that he, Michele and Jackson went to Mass at St. Leo’s Saturday in Washington. He said that the last song in the service was "Lift Every Voice and Sing," the "Black National Anthem." Jack said very few knew the words, but that the whole church got it. They got what this whole week is about, how we do things together, and not to one another.
I think that’s right. America’s got it.

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. is in Washington, D.C., for the inauguration of Barack Obama. While many from the Elm City also made the trek to see history unfold, for those who did not, DeStefano will provide commentary on what he sees and hears. Check out his videos and more inaugural coverage at www.nhregister.com.

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