Here are the full remarks from Watertown Mayor Jeff Graham, delivered at his fifth inauguration at the Flower Memorial Library today.
Inauguration of Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham
Flower Memorial Library
January 1, 2012
Happy New Year to you all and thank you to the citizens who have honored me with a fifth term as Mayor of the City of Watertown. It has been 20 years since I first raised my right hand under this Rotunda....
Mark Twain said “twenty years from now, you will be disappointed by the things you didn’t do.” Well I am not disappointed , and it’s my hope to follow Twain’s advice for the future which is to “throw off the bow lines…sail away from safe harbor and let the wind catch your sails.”
Too much looking back is bad for progress….
On this day I look out at friends and fellow citizens. People like Monsignor Robert McCarthy…the “Carnie Priest”…who has offered an invocation at all five of my inaugurals. Monsignor McCarthy likely didn’t realize what a long term commitment he made when he agreed to do this in 1991. While some may consider these years an eternity, I appreciate Monsignor viewing it as a blink of an eye in a longer narrative.
Others here today include my campaign comrades like Melissa VanBrocklin, Matt Doheny, Councilwoman Burns and many others too numerous to mention.
Four times prior, I have taken the Oath of Office as Mayor of the City of Watertown. Many have asked why ?…..well its not like asking Liz Taylor why so many marriages…..to me it’s a commitment of a different sort….I believe in the statement, “the more you take responsibility for your past and present, the more you can impact the future.” I do it because it’s challenging, it’s hard work and , for me, a way to make a difference.
The primary advantage to having longevity in a position is that I have perspective, one enhanced by experience with our City’s past, present and future.
During the dark and weary final months of World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt struggled to inspire at his Fourth Inaugural in a nation buoyed by victories but soured and fatigued by loss.
“Things in life will not always run smoothly. Sometimes we rise towards the heights-Then all will seem to reverse itself and start downward.
The great fact to remember is that the trend of civilization is forever upward-that a line down the middle of the peaks and valleys of the centuries, always has an upward trend.”
Both FDR and another giant of our times , Dr. King, knew during a time with many challenges that the perspective of time yields a more optimistic view.
It’s really the “arc of history” Dr. King talked about…..The arc is long and always bends toward justice, he said of his struggles.
The opposite of the arc is the minutiae of the moment…The current scandals, challenges and crisis that have us crying out for vision and leadership, while ignoring the longer narrative we all contribute to.
We can look at this Library where we are struggling with debate over 7 day a week operation and who controls what funds. All of that is the minutiae of the moment for sure, but the arc of history shows this Library a much better facility than the one of twenty years ago.
We have debated our parks department at length this past year about issues we know need correcting, yet the arc of history also shows in the past two decades a series of much improved recreational facilities all over town that includes fields and trails.
What about our downtown ? The minutiae of the moment leads you to talk of the Woolworth Building and Masonic Temple….but the recent arc of history has shown us the Franklin Building, the Library, the Y, the Burdick, Buck and Brighton and a streetscape program that has revived downtown.
Our Zoo represents the work of men like Mayor Karl Burns who understood “legacy” thirty years ago when he built the Aviary. Today this City Council has shown that same awareness by resisting the chatter of those calling for its demolition in favor of developing a multi-use facility people twenty years from now will be looked at as visionary.
We have all sorts of matters to keep us busy this coming year and for the most part the fruits will not be seen till further along the arc.
During the coming months topics like dormitories at JCC, the beginnings of a re-use plan at Mercy, a 21st Century recreation program and energy efficiency in all City operations will be discussed and debated.
We must face them not merely as fires to be tamped down, but as the miniscule notches on the arc that a whole other group will use to judge us years from now when future mayors and council members gather on this day under this Rotunda.
I will lead Council and the Community in seeking progressive approaches to the minutiae of the moment, all with a watchful eye on that arc of history that will be our legacy.
My mantra has always been the most important part of my job as Mayor is to show up and to care, which I do every day.
However, one Mayor cannot do it all. I will continue to be an ardent spokesperson for Watertown, but the story told must the work of many. We have a story to tell and a public to inform. One of my goals is to make our City government even more accessible to the people by using forms of media and communication a new generation relates to.
Politics can dull the soul and sap you of vitality in a bid for acceptance. Not so for me any longer. My goal is not to be safe and benign... As Winter passes and we look to harbingers of Spring like Daytona and the Masters, I will not try to lay up short of the green or stay back in the pack….We will shoot for the pin and ramp it up for the next four years.
Plain talk and clear expectations are my goals.
Together we can “bend the arc” of our City’s history by fostering a better community today and that will accrue to generations to come.
The vibrancy of a growing city should be celebrated for what it offers it citizens. We should embrace the work ahead of us knowing that history will tell of us making Watertown a better place to live. That is in the end the best we can do.
Thank you and may God bless all of you and bring you only the best in the year ahead.