Saturday, July 3, 2010
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES
Last year I attended the graduation of a recruit class from the Hartford Police Academy that was held in the auditorium of the Aetna on Farmington Avenue. At last years graduation the keynote speaker was Hartford's Mayor Eddie A. Perez. I had a hard time not getting up and walking out listening to Perez as he spoke to Hartford's newest police officers about honesty, integrity and them being held to a higher standard. And yes, it was the same Eddie Perez that was under arrest on corruption and extortion allegations at the time and now has the label of convicted felon.
Yesterday I entered that same auditorium for the graduation ceremony of the latest officers to gain the title of "Hartford's finest". I have to keep reminding myself that I am biased against Perez, but an air of hope and promise seemed to permeate the room. The Perez cloud had been lifted and the Segarra sunshine was filling the room.
The usual speeches took place, the prayers were said and then Mayor Segarra took the podium for his address. Mayor Segarra has a distinct advantage over Perez when it comes to public speaking. For one thing, Segarra, as an attorney, knows how to speak without notes and seem believable. Perez never seemed comfortable and was obviously always reading from a prepared script.
With that being said, Mayor Segarra gave a great speech and I have to admit I got "goosebumps" at a couple times during his remarks. It was hard to listen to Perez a year earlier talk about Police Officer's being held to a higher standard when he clearly felt that the higher standard didn't apply to him.
Mayor Segarra spoke about his life experience of his own father being shot and killed by senseless violence. It was tough not to draw the comparison of our former Mayor whose claim to fame was his gang membership and our current Mayor who fled from his home in Brooklyn, New York at the age of 15 and came to Hartford to avoid being drawn into the gang life. A Mayor that even under those circumstances and being on his own at 15 was able to rise above the gangs and eventually get his law degree and go on to serve the City of Hartford as Mayor.
Which Mayor do you think is the better role model for youth and even for our newest Police Officer's?
Back to the speech. Mayor Segarra spoke about his earliest interaction with a police officer in Brooklyn and how he and his buddies were enthralled with the firearm holstered on the officer's hip. He related how the officer spoke to him and his friends and game them their first lesson in what guns are for, and in what they weren't for.
He urged the new officers to take a Hartford boy or girl and mentor them and begin moving Hartford's young people in the right direction, the same way the Brooklyn officer did to him. He also urged the officers to take an interest in Hartford and develop the love for our city that so many of us have.
He encouraged the officers to discover the beauty of Hartford and its gems like our golf courses and Elizabeth Park. He told them when they might be feeling stressed after their shift, take a walk and unwind in Elizabeth Park. Bring their families and children to discover one of Hartford's museums. Take the time to come back into Hartford and eat at one of our many restaurants.
It was a speech that focused on the key to Hartford's immediate future, restoring trust and confidence in the public and that Hartford is going to move in the right direction, despite the Perez years.
If the comments I overheard in the room afterwards were any indication, Mayor Segarra hit a grand slam home run with his comments. I think there were a few hundred more believers in Hartford's hope after the speech than there were initially entering the room.