I have to admit that I felt a little bit like a wedding crasher at the inaugural ceremony for Mayor Marty Walsh on January 6. You see, I live in Newton, a city that only shares a border with Boston proper — and apparently, a small portion of Boston College.
But I wanted to be there for the historic changing of the guard, to get a look at the new mayor for myself, and to celebrate with my city. And even though I don’t vote or pay taxes there, it is my city, too.
Even though I don’t vote or pay taxes there, it is my city, too.
Whenever I travel outside the Commonwealth and am asked where I’m from, I say “Boston.” This is not only because everyone knows where Boston is and Newton, not so much. And it’s certainly not because I’m ashamed of Newton, which is a wonderful place and I will rise to its defense against anyone who would sneer at my leafy green town.
But for me, one of Newton’s primary charms is its proximity to Boston, the Hub of this local universe, the sun that illuminates and nourishes life in its satellite cities and towns.
Boston — like other cities — is the source of great art, music and arguments; a destination with a million reasons to visit and live in, including an abundance of restaurants, hospitals, parks, cobblestones and church spires, architecture and universities. And in the 38 years I’ve lived in and near Boston, the city has gotten better in countless ways, from the replacement of the miserable Central Artery with the unfolding potential of the Rose Kennedy Greenway, to an Irish mayor who repudiates discrimination based on race, religion or sexual identity and whose first meeting addressed the murder of young African-Americans in the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Maybe this is the new definition of “world class city,” Boston Strong and the Red Sox, notwithstanding,
The inauguration of Marty Walsh was pure Boston. There was a little high-flown rhetoric (John Winthrop’s “city on the hill” got a workout, cited by no fewer than four speakers) but there was a lot more plain talk about what’s good in Beantown and even more about what needs fixing — and nearly all of it was delivered in real Boston accents, which continue to confound even Academy Award-winning actors.
It was a civic pageant with a touch of pomp but virtually no pomposity. It was serious but didn’t take itself seriously. It was real.
Gov. Deval Patrick was brief, warm and funny. Suffolk County Clerk Michael Donovan (he made a joke of his own obscurity) was like the uncle whose wedding toast goes on three minutes too long but is forgiven because the guy has a heart of gold.
Mayor Walsh’s inauguration was also wicked Irish. It kicked off with the Boston Fire Gaelic Pipe and Drum Band, Yo-Yo Ma’s set included a traditional Irish melody, and it closed with “God Bless America,” sung by the Irish tenor Ronan Tynan, who said, “It’s a good day to be Irish.” Sure, and it was, but there was also enough racial and ethnic diversity sitting on the platform and acknowledged in the mayor’s inaugural address that the rest of us didn’t feel we’d stumbled into a party at the Hibernian Hall.
Boston is ascendant but not arrogant, as demonstrated by the election of Mayor Marty “one-day-at-a-time” Walsh. This is a hard working man with a moving life-story, but did you ever see a less charismatic politician? Okay, not counting Tom Menino.
I went to the inauguration because even though my zip code does not begin “021,” Boston is my hometown and I felt like cheering.