How We Remembered Tom Menino This Week

After all that was written in the past two years, there was still more to say about the Mayor for Life.

Associated Press

Associated Press

When Mayor Tom Menino announced that he would not seek reelection, journalists, colleagues, and admirers wrote remembrances that summed up his character, his tenure, and his impact. And again in his final months and days in office, the city took a moment to consider his 20 years in office. Few realized we would have another occasion to reflect on Menino’s life so soon after he left the job he loved.

But in the wake of his passing Thursday, the internet once again flooded with columns, cartoons, tweets, and blog posts offered up as tribute to the Mayor. After all that was written in the past two years, there was still much more to say about a larger-than-life force in Boston politics.

Throughout the day Thursday, Menino got tributes from big names in politics. In a statement, President Obama called him “bold, big-hearted, and Boston strong.” The Clintons offered kind words as well. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, with whom Menino created Mayors Against Illegal Guns, wrote a column in the Globe praising his advocacy for gun control. “Tom spoke passionately about the victims of gun violence—and he felt, as I did, that a mayor’s number one responsibility was protecting the public,” he wrote.

Local political figures spoke out, Thursday, as well, of course. John Connolly, who challenged Menino in the race from which the Mayor for Life would eventually bow out, wrote a perceptive column for WBUR on the keys to Menino’s success. “A working-class kid with a speech impediment,” Connolly wrote, “Menino knew what it meant to be laughed at, counted out and have doors closed repeatedly. This cruelty fed an insatiable work ethic that made him focus on results and not flash. It also fed a desire to help people in need.”

In all the obituaries and tributes, there were a couple moments that were almost universally called out as worth revisiting this week. One was a documentary that aired on WGBH in 1984 as part of a series on neighborhoods. It took a look at how a Hyde Park native turned “a lifetime of friendships into a seat on the City Council.” It offers an early, innocent glimpse at the political skills of a man who would come to build a lifetime of friendships outside more than just his own neighborhood:

The other, of course, is the speech Menino gave at a interfaith remembrance service for victims, days after the Marathon bombings. In a dramatic moment, the wheelchair-bound Menino grimaced, and pulled himself up to standing position to take the podium. Never one lauded for his public speaking, he then delivered a moving address about his city.

“No adversity, no challenge, nothing can tear down the resilience in the heart of this city and its people,” he said. Menino had an enormous faith in the people of Boston. And this week, those people have made clear the respect we have for him in return.