In their inaugural speeches Sunday, D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown used different words to sound similar themes on budget, education and family affairs, but both newly minted officeholders set a new tone for camaraderie that they said had been lacking in City Hall.
Vowing to stabilize the city’s finances, improve schools and help residents gain statehood, Mr. Gray took the oath as the sixth elected mayor of the nation’s capital in front of a standing-room-only crowd at the Washington Convention Center. It included Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and D.C. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Eric Washington.
Mr. Gray, a 68-year-old Roman Catholic, attended a nearly hour-long multifaith ecumenical service beforehand and later pledged to work side by side with Mr. Brown, 40, who was sworn in minutes prior to the new mayor and encouraged residents to engage in a hand-up not handout way of life.
Mr. Gray cruised to victory in the November general election after a bitter and hard-fought Democratic primary against incumbent Adrian M. Fenty, who was perceived in some quarters as being aloof and disconnected from much of black Washington.
On Sunday, the two black native sons warmly embraced during the transition of power as the new mayor grasped the official seal of the city.
During the campaign, Mr. Fenty and Mr. Gray, who was succeeded in his previous post Sunday by Mr. Brown, rarely addressed the racial animosity against Mr. Fenty unless asked by the media, but polls reflected the long-standing discontent of black voters.
A November 2009 Clarus poll and a poll conducted last year by The Washington Post put Mr. Fenty’s approval among blacks at 29 percent while his approval ratings among whites in the two polls were 60 percent and 57 percent, respectively.
While the two liberal Democrats also sparred over spending issues, mayoral appointments and policy decisions, residents saw none of the kind on Sunday.
Attendance at the inauguration reflected old and new Washington, with many of the city’s so-called old guard — such as Sterling Tucker, the city’s first post-Home Rule council chairman, and the Rev. Walter Fauntroy, the first elected congressional delegate — seated among foreign diplomats, residents and elected officials of 21st-century Washington.
Noticeably absent from her reserved seat was former first lady Michelle Fenty, who made an impassioned, tear-filled plea defending her husband’s character in the waning days of the campaign.
Continuing his “One City” campaign theme, Mr. Gray painted a broad-brush picture of familial Washington by stating early on that it is not a mere city, but a place of magnificent intentions for 600,000 residents and people abroad as well.
“Across the world, people hear Washington, D.C., and they conjure images of majesty and history. They think of the home of our president, the seat of our national government and a command center in the global struggle for freedom and democracy,” said Mr. Gray, a widower and grandfather.
“While we take pride in these images and honor the special relationship we share with the federal government, to us — the people of the District of Columbia — this city means something quite different. It’s where we work, raise our families, build communities, practice our faith, teach our children and live our lives.”View Entire Story
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Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...
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