10/13/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Like Father, Like Son?

On a blustery morning early in March, Mayor Richard M. Daley was running late for a constituent's birthday party. A very important constituent, practically family: the City of Chicago. One hundred seventy-one years old this year, Chicago was being feted at the History Museum in Lincoln Park, and the second-floor banquet hall was decked out for the occasion--there were hot dogs, balloons, and a cake decorated with the stars and stripes of the city flag. By the time the mayor walked in, 20 minutes behind schedule, the Marist High School Jazz Band was playing an impromptu recital of the school fight song to fill the dead air for the few hundred guests.

Waiting to be introduced, the mayor fixed his windswept comb-over and straightened his blue pinstripes. When it came his turn to speak, he read his prepared remarks in a robotic monotone. Rattling on about the founding father Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable, the city charter, and world's fairs past, the mayor seemed bored--like a man who has spent six long terms schlepping to untold thousands of such ceremonial events.

About halfway through, the mayor paused. Perhaps he sensed his lackluster performance, because he looked up at the audience and started speaking off the cuff. He riffed about the visit he'd made earlier that morning to an eighth-grade class in the tough Back of the Yards neighborhood on the city's South Side--at a school named for his late father, Mayor Richard J. Daley. With passion in his voice, he mused about how many of these young, mainly Hispanic and black students were succeeding in the classroom despite the daily scourge of gangs, guns, and drugs they faced. Then, in one of his characteristic non sequiturs, he segued into a story about the meeting he'd had the day before with the former British prime minister Tony Blair and how the city must meet the vast and varied challenges of the global economy. His face flushed as he stressed the need for safer neighborhoods, better schools, new libraries, and vibrant cultural attractions. His boyish enthusiasm spoke better than words of his love for the city and for a job he gives no indication of ever leaving.

Like father, like son.

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