Inauguration date: April 17, 1933
This speech is recorded as it first appeared in print. Archaic spelling and misspellings in the original document have not been corrected.
Two years ago, almost to a day, we witnessed in this hall a glorious and eventful scene. We cheered and applauded the new Mayor, little knowing that we were watching the opening scene of a great tragedy. “At that time, our city was at the lowest mark in its history. Our treasury was empty. The criminal element had a strangle hold upon us. The whole world looked upon Chicago as if it were the very symbol of lawlessness. But an iron man had come to take hold of its affairs, and so marvelously did he perform, that within less than two years he compelled the whole world to recognize that this is a city of God-fearing and law-abiding Americans—that we had the will and the power to raise ourselves to our rightful position among our sister cities.
Today, by the action of this council, I am called to take the place made vacant by Anton J. Cermak.
I am not prepared to present a detailed program to this honorable body. Time, since my election, was too short for that. But I do know the plight in which Chicago finds itself.
Our teachers, policemen, firemen and other municipal employes have been working for months without pay.
The general economic conditions are making it increasingly difficult for our citizens to pay their taxes, while others able to do so, are delaying or refusing payment.
Two hundred thousand families are dependent upon public or private charity for their daily bread.
The lawless elements of our city are not yet completely conquered.
The cost of government has not yet reached the lowest possible figure consistent with good public service.
These conditions present our major problems. To solve them, I shall need your help. This is a council-governed city, and while the law places responsibility upon the executive, it is my earnest hope that through conference and co-operation, mutual understanding between us will always prevail which will enable us to deal with all our major difficulties harmoniously.
Chicago, for a great many years, has suffered from adverse criticism, some of it, I regret to say, justified. The claim had been made that law enforcement had broken down in Chicago. I am proud to say to you now that that impression has been dissipated to a great degree, and I pledge specifically the fullest co-operation with our able and energetic State’s Attorney in the administration of his office to the end that organized crime be effectively driven from our community.
We are now approaching a great historic event in the life of our city. On June 1st, we shall open to the world the Century of Progress Exposition. We shall be visited, I hope, by millions coming from every quarter of the globe. It is my profound belief that we shall be able to give evidence of a real century of progress. I am inviting our fellow citizens to join me in presenting to our visitors Chicago as it really is—the heart and spirit of Chicago. A city great in population—great in physical, moral and spiritual achievement, and a city full of hope and full of confidence in the far greater destiny that lies before it.
My remarks would not be complete were I not to pay tribute to a great leader who, justly, was your first choice for the position which I now have the honor to fill. The self-effacing sacrifice that Patrick A. Nash made by refusing to accept the honor proffered to him is only another evidence of his high character, loyalty and unselfishness.
Gentlemen of the Council, we all love Chicago. We have problems, it is true, but we shall meet them as men. I invite all of our citizens to join in the task. We shall not sell Chicago short. Her destiny is to reach the first place among the cities of the world. Let us begin now to carry her forward toward that destiny.
- Chicago City Council. Journal of the Proceedings, April 17, 1933, p. 8.