Inaugural events are bigger than the people taking an oath of office. That’s why Mayor Menino should be at the Conte Forum today. The outgoing Mayor said he isn’t attending his successor’s inauguration today because he doesn’t want to intrude. He told the Globe, “It’s Marty Walsh’s day. It’s not Tom Menino’s day.”
That’s not quite right. It’s Boston’s day.
Our democracy has relatively few affairs of state. We eschew much of the pomp and circumstance of our British friends. Few would complain.
Still, such events offer rare moments of unity in a fractured democracy. Inaugurations bind wounds from hard-fought campaigns and from the rightly rough and tumble world of ordinary politics.
Jefferson set the tone when he declared, after the tumult of the 1800 election, “We are all Republicans. We are all Federalists.”
Outgoing president John Adams set an entirely different tone by skipping the inauguration. Few followed Adams’ lead and most have stuck to the Jeffersonian theme of unity.
Menino should be commended for not wanting to overshadow the new Mayor as he takes office. But today’s events are not just about an outgoing or incoming officeholder.
Marty Walsh is the central character today in a story that is not all about him. It’s about one of America’s great cities that is peacefully transitioning power from one leader to another.
When former leaders attend inaugural events, they provide visual reminders of our past. They provide unity and perspective. Their presence reminds us that the office and the city is bigger than the present incumbent.
And after twenty years of one powerful mayor, that’s a timely and important reminder. The outgoing Mayor should be there to make his journey from the perch of power back to ordinary citizen complete.