Inauguration date: April 15, 1947
This speech is recorded as it first appeared in print. Archaic spelling and misspellings in the original document have not been corrected.
Mayor Harrison—Mayor Kelly—Members of the City Council—Honored Guests—Fellow Chicagoans:
Just a few moments ago I was a private citizen.
Now I am a public official.
During the period since I first accepted the nomination of my party—and until this moment—I spoke as a private citizen. It was as an individual interested in his city and its welfare and progress, that I presented in some detail my plans and hopes for a Greater Chicago.
You have just witnessed by taking the oath of office as Mayor of Chicago. I raised my right hand and swore I would do my duty.
It is that oath of office which marks the difference between a private citizen and a public official. It signifies the acceptance of a public trust with a solemn promise to be true to that trust.
It is now my obligation to try to accomplish and bring to reality those things of which I spoke during the campaign—the improvements so necessary for Chicago’s future progress.
With the unselfish cooperation and willing help of all the members of the City Council—working together we will consummate those objectives.
I think of this, our first meeting together, as the beginning of a new era in Chicago’s life, and I know that all of you share with me the determination to measure up to our responsibilities and make the most of the unequaled opportunities for advancement that are open to our city.
Several members of the City Council have been honored by the citizens of their wards for many, many years. For other members, this is their first meeting, as it is mine. But for all of us, this inaugural session of the new City Council is the beginning our trust, and of our obligation to make Chicago better and greater.
We must approach the problems of this great city together, with courage and high purpose.
Our first concern must be Chicago’s progress—an objective which must exclude partisan politics. Let our record for the public good be our only politics. In that way we will bring credit upon our city and the people who have honored us.
Chicago is one of the great cities in the world.
We have a solid foundation upon which to build.
It is not my purpose tonight to present to you the specific programs and the many urgent problems of the city which confront us.
There is housing. One of our first duties is to get large—scale home construction started in Chicago. The desperate straits of so many of our people for living space is sufficient stimulus for immediate action.
Our schools must be made the best in the nation and must be kept entirely free from politics.
We must have good local transportation which will provide safe, attractive, convenient, and swift modern service. More subways are also essential.
We urgently need a city-wide system of superhighways to relieve traffic congestion on our over-loaded street system and to provide convenient access to all sections of the city.
Our streets and alleys must be kept clean. They must be improved and better lighted, and our sanitary, and sanitation facilities must be extended. Good municipal housekeeping is a basic obligation of good municipal government.
Protection and inspection services—police, fire, and health—must be intensified—particularly in the crowded areas of our city. All these departments are under-manned and should have additional modern equipment.
The intensified stimulation of neighborhood and community spirit especially calls for our immediate action.
The time for speechmaking on these vital problems is past. Now we must have orderly action. The groundwork has already been laid by the present administration for many of the major improvements and, of course, each previous administration in Chicago’s history has made its own contributions to our city. It is such teamwork—public officials doing their duty and working together with the people—which makes a city great. That is what makes a country great.
Let us always remember that we represent all sections of Chicago—all creeds and all races.
Each Alderman, of course, is the spokesman for the people in his own ward, but he also represents, together with his colleagues, all the people of Chicago.
We are members of a team, each having a particular part to play, but all coordinating our efforts for the main objective—a greater Chicago.
There undoubtedly will be many times when it will be necessary to submerge our personal hopes and ambitions for the common good. How willingly—and effectively—we do this for the good of Chicago will give a definite indication of our stature as public officials.
War brought responsibilities to all of us at home and particularly to the men and women in our fighting forces. We all patriotically accepted whatever tasks were imposed upon us, as necessary duties of citizenship.
The coming of peace has brought new responsibilities particularly to us, the leaders selected by the people to head our city government.
We cannot fail.
I am sure that, working together with charity and tolerance—with consideration and full understanding of the need for our City’s moral, material and spiritual advancement, we will—with God’s help—meet our responsibilities.
The following words from the pen of Edgar Guest eloquently express the thought I would like to leave with you:
“If freedom shall new splendors reach,
And not be dragged into the dust,
This to our children we must teach—that
Public Service is a trust.”
- Chicago City Council. Journal of the Proceedings, April 15, 1947, p. 6–7.
- Municipal Reference Collection files.