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The Place for Pomp and Circumstance

January 5, 2011

Live in a small city long enough and you’ll forget that bigger cities surround the mayor’s oath of office with pomp and circumstance. In a small city, the mayor shuffles over to the Bible, takes the oath, then gets down to business. His family’s there and relatives with cameras commemorate the moment. But there are no parties, no speeches, no crowds.

Those who are no-nonsense may nod their heads at this and think, “That’s how an elected official should be ushered into office.” But there’s something to be said about the ceremony that took place on the steps of the Providence City Hall. It gave residents a chance to either celebrate Mayor Angel Taveras or hear him out in his first appearance as mayor. And while the good and the bad transfer from one mayor to another it gave everyone at least a sense of a fresh beginning.

Following the Taveras event came the swearing in of Rhode Island’s new governor, Lincoln Chafee. It was a simpler event than I had expected. After the prayer and the poet, the state’s top officials took their oath and Chafee delivered his speech. Politics aside, many of us in the newsroom admired the imagery and language in Chafee’s speech specifically where Chafee remarks on the state’s motto: Hope.

“But mindful of the Book of Hebrews, they also connected this hope to the more grounded symbol of the anchor, reflecting an essential strength and realism that has always guided us, even as our ship of state has sailed for daring new horizons.”

These past two days of swearing in leadership have brought inspiring speeches and moments of celebration. And they’ve left me to wonder whether smaller cities should take up the practice and get their mayor on the steps of city hall, taking the time to mark the hope and possibility that come with new beginnings.

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