Emanuel sworn in as Chicago mayor

Susan Du

Thousands of people gathered in Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion Monday morning to witness Rahm Emanuel’s inauguration as the 55th mayor of Chicago.

Some, like Emanuel supporter John O’Malley, took a day off from work to experience the historic event.

“This is a great opportunity for us to the take the next step in being a world-class city,” he said.

Emanuel’s inauguration was held outdoors in sunny 50-degree weather. Other than several VIP tickets sold to event sponsors, the ceremony was open to the public and secured by law enforcement authorities.

A host of notable public officials and religious leaders attended, including Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Archbishop of Chicago Francis George, Imam Kareem Irfan, Pastor Charles Jenkins, Rabbi Jack Moline, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and ex-mayor Richard Daley.

Besides Emanuel, Susana Mendoza and Stephanie Neely were inaugurated as city clerk and city treasurer, respectively. In addition, Mendoza administered the oath of office for all 50 members of the Chicago City Council.

From the beginning, the ceremony highlighted the talents of multicultural students and artists.

The event kicked off with a performance of Jewish reggae artist Matishayu’s “One Day” by the Chicago Children’s Choir, after which Daley called the assembly to order. Then, Chicago Public Schools student DeJuan Brown led the Pledge of Allegiance and Grammy winner Heather Headley sang the national anthem.

And because all three officials inaugurated Monday have minority backgrounds, Chicago’s signature diversity was one of Emanuel’s major rallying points.

Chicago resident Elizabeth Kosseh said attending the inauguration was a touching experience. Touched by the multicultural voices of the Chicago Children’s Choir joined in song about a bright future, Kosseh said she found “the mix” moving and sensational.

“He had good credentials,” Kosseh said, in reference to her decision to vote for Emanuel. “Also, it was the word of the President of the United States that made me connect with him. He has a cultural background, and I do, too.”

After congratulating Daley for his 22 years of service to Chicago, Emanuel began his inaugural address by calling for change. His speech detailed a four-front approach to bettering the city: improving school systems, decreasing crime, making city government more cost-efficient and creating jobs.

The Northwestern alumnus acknowledged that Chicago traditionally struggled in all four areas. Though educators should be honored, the reality remains that Chicago public schools graduate only 50 percent of students, Emanuel said. Calling for a longer school day and year as well as better tenure for teachers, he also challenged parents to partner with educators.

“As some have noticed, I am not a patient man,” Emanuel said. “And when it comes to improving our schools, I will not be a patient mayor.”

Next, Emanuel called for making the streets safer. Recalling a visit to a memorial in Roseland dedicated to the child victims of gun violence, he asked attendees, “What kind of society have we become when we find ourselves paying tribute not only to soldiers and police officers for doing their job, but to children who were just playing on the block?”

Emanuel also stressed the need to find cost-effective ways to realize his plans for Chicago. He promised to assess every aspect of city government and to cut redundant operations.

However, Emanuel took this opportunity to criticize the controversial actions Wisconsin and Ohio lawmakers took in February to limit the power of unions, stating that politicians in those cases exploited an economic crisis to achieve a political goal.

Emanuel then called job creation the final fundamental challenge of Chicago. In order to create jobs as well as a knowledgeable workforce, he circled back to emphasize the importance of granting quality education to all Chicago children.

“We must pass the Illinois DREAM Act, so the children of undocumented immigrants have the chance to go to college,” he said.

Lake Forest resident John Drummond said he feels hopeful about Emanuel.

“He’s a do-er,” Drummond said. “He makes things happen. He’s not going to maintain the status quo.”

The four religious leaders also spoke at the inauguration. First, Cardinal George delivered an invocation calling for God’s “guidance in the affairs of life.” Later, Irfan led a prayer for peace and the elimination of bigotry and Islamophobia. Jenkins followed with a prayer for guidance in all Chicago concerns ranging from the quality of life and education for inner-city children to the reputation of the Bulls. Lastly, Rabbi Jack Moline, Emanuel’s rabbi at the Agudas Achim temple in Virginia, issued a benediction for all attendees to join together in support of Chicago.

The Chicago Children’s Choir closed with a performance of K’naan’s “Wavin’ Flag.”

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