The day started with an ecunemical prayer service at the gorgeous new Cathedral of Our City of the Angels, seat of the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese. The prayer service, led by Cardinal Roger Mahoney, was attended by leading figures from all faiths...Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Buddhists, Native Americans and Christians.
Next was the walking procession, reminiscent of paranoid-free US Presidential inaugurations. Mr. Villaraigosa and his tailored, demure wife, Corina, a public school teacher, beamed broadly and waved to the cheering multi-cultural crowd of thousands lining the streets to glimpse this native son of the East Los Angeles barrios.
And then the pomp of inauguration. As Mrs. Villaraigosa held a family Bible, the new mayor confidently took the oath office from a federal judge of the US 9th Circuit of Appeals.
Seated on the dignitary platform was a veritable who's who of Democratic and California politics. Among them were former Vice President Al Gore; House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi; California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver; Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamente; former California governor and Republican US Senator Pete Wilson; Oakland Mayor and former California Governor Jerry Brown; former California Governor Gray Davis; the mayors of New York, Washington DC, San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, Chicago and Long Beach.
And Jesse Jackson, political leader and founder of the Rainbow Coalition, and Dolores Huerta, activist icon to the labor and Mexican-American communities and co-founder of the United Farm Workers with the late Medal of Freedom recipient, Cesar Chavez.
Mayor Villaraigosa's 31-minute speech (on pages 2-5 of this article)was strongly Kennedy-esque in its idealistic appeal to hope, dreams, equality and a better future. He spoke with an energy and authority that sent chills of recognition through the crowd of the beginnings of an important national political career. The speech was interrupted 44 times by thunderous applause and cheering.
Villaraigosa implored, "Dream with me of a Los Angeles where our kids can walk to school in safety and where they receive an education that gives them a genuine opportunity to pursue their own dreams....
Dream with me of a Los Angeles where it doesn't matter whether you're African-American, Latino, Caucasian or Asian. Whether you're Jewish or Muslim, Protestant or Catholic. Whether you're from Watts or Westwood. Where every Angeleno is an equal stakeholder in our city's future." His speech was followed by Natalie Cole singing a deeply heartfelt renditon of "God Bless America." The Rev. Cecil Murray, a major Los Angeles community leader and retired pastor of the venerable First AME church, closed the inauguration by asking that everyone hold hands for the final prayer. At prayer's end, Cardinal Mahoney and Rev. Murray enbraced, then warmly congratulated the handsome 52-year-old mayor.
It was a scene straight from Hollywood central casting, and yet it was very real. Will Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, progressive man of the people, son of Mexican immigrants, live up to the hype and high expectations?
Of course, only time will tell the mayor's political fortunes. But if his inspiring, John Kennedy-like speech is any indication, he could someday be taking an oath for the highest office in our land.
Mayor Villaraigosa's speech is on the remaining pages of this article. It's quite worth your time to read it.