As you all know, Chicago has just installed former Congressman and Obama’s former White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel as the new mayor last Monday, May 16, 2011, with a wonderfully smooth and hopeful, yet subdued inauguration at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Your intrepid photographer happened to be there, albeit in a not-so-ideal vantage point. We, mere mortals were cordoned off and segregated in the great lawn, and were not allowed to bring in picnic chairs. We either had to stand, which most did, or sit on the damp grass. The red seats in the pavilion were occupied by, I presume, VIPs who had either tickets or invitations, and by Chicago Public School students and neighborhood children who comprised the Chicago Children Choir program, more than 2,000 strong.
But it didn’t matter, people around me were happy to be there and certainly hopeful for the future of the city and yet realistic enough to say that it is going to be a hard road for the new mayor to accomplish his goals. The weather certainly contributed to the overall good feeling – it was a perfect Chicago spring weather, gorgeous blue sky, no clouds (!), cool to cold in the shadows but warm under the sun.
The audience was terrific – a very friendly bunch and respectful of each others’ spaces. There was no hysteria here, just ordinary, no I will take that back, extraordinary is the right word, Chicagoans who seem to genuinely support the ideas and the direction the new mayor is taking us. We were a remarkable bunch – very eclectic – I saw a lot of women wearing hijabs and teenagers with yamulkes, heard a polyglot of languages, from Spanish to Polish to Ilonggo, Mandarin and Swahili, and different kinds of English accents and hybrids like Spanglish, Engalog and Vietish. People from the west, north and south sides of Chicago came in droves, so did curious out-of-towners who seemed to not mind the pat downs we had to endure going into Millennium Park.
As for the new mayor’s inaugural speech, I thought it was terrific, clear, even-tempered, and most of all, brief and to the point. Others said that it could have been better, perhaps they were expecting the pseudo-Emanuel (@MayorEmanuel) that appeared on Twitter just before the election.
This part of his speech summed it all:
“Over the next four years, we have schools to fix.
Over the next four years, we have streets to make safe.
Over the next four years, we have a government to transform and businesses and jobs to attract.
But above all, let’s never forget the dream. The dream that has made generation after generation of Chicagoans come here and stay here.
I am confident in Chicago’s future because I have seen it in the eyes of our schoolchildren and heard it in their voices.”
Aside from Mayor Emanuel, a son of an Israeli immigrant from Tel Aviv, and several aldermen, two other city officials were sworn into office on Monday, each with a colorful life journey that is so Chicago and American, getting to where they are now: City Clerk Susana Mendoza, a daughter of immigrants coming from Mexico and City Treasurer Stephanie Neely whose African-American roots came from Grenada, Mississippi. Guests during the inauguration included Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden and former Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne.
I assembled photos taken with a 300mm zoom lens (some are not tack sharp) from almost every each stage of the program in the slide show. Enjoy!
City of Chicago Office of the Mayor
City of Chicago Office of the City Clerk
City of Chicago Office of the Treasurer