Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Report From Houston Mayor Bill White’s Inaugural Speech


This past Wednesday morning I attended the Inauguration ceremony for Houston Mayor Bill White, City Controller Annise Parker and the 14 member Houston City Council.

The outdoor setting on a sunny day in Downtown’s under-construction Discovery Park was excellent.

The invocation was given by Daniel Cardinal DiNardo. He said the things you would expect him to say for such an occasion. 

Cardinal DiNardo had the option to speak with some emphasis on the unmet needs of the poor in Houston, but he did not choose that path.

One thing I like about the oath of office often administered to public officials is the part where they say—“To the best of my abilities.” This line acknowledges the differences in people’s abilities and asks elected officials to do the best they can.

That’s really all any of us are able to do.

Mayor White made an inaugural speech of about 15 minutes. Here’s the text.

The speech was a boosterish. That’s fine enough for a celebratory day. Yet the speech ignored some obvious facts about Houston.

Mayor White spoke about immigrant success stories in Houston. This is a strong point of Houston. It’s wonderful that a city that not long ago was segregated, is now a world-center of immigrant accomplishment.

Mayor White said European cities had been in contact with his office asking for advice on integrating Muslim populations into the city fabric.  

Yet Mayor White was also, as seems his inclination when challenged, dismissive of people with a vision of Houston that conflicts with his own. He spoke about people “who are not happy unless they are angry about something.” 

Houston has longstanding problems of poverty and pollution and Houston residents have every reason to believe city leaders are not committed to addressing these problems seriously.

This is especially true in the case of our urban poverty.    

Mayor White makes himself out a pragmatic city leader. Okay. But self-defined pragmatists often feel they are operating from so-called “reason”, and that by definition people who disagree are “unreasonable.”

Most often it is people in power who define what is “reasonable.” Often that definition coincides with the ambitions and desires of people doing the defining.  

I noticed a list of corporate and private sponsors on the inauguration program. Why does a public civic ceremony require private and corporate sponsorship? Most especially the inaugural ceremony of our elected officials.

Why does this city civic event need to be sponsored by, among others, the Houston Contractors Association, the Marathon Oil PAC and Front Row Ticket Company?  

Given the terrible turnout in our city elections, around 10% for the General Election and less than  5% for the runoffs, it’s hard not to wonder who has the real influence with city officials.    

As a final note, Mayor White did get credit with me for making reference to the following Martin Luther King passage–

Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness. One day a man came to Jesus; and he wanted to raise some questions about some vital matters in life. At points, he wanted to trick Jesus, and show him that he knew a little more than Jesus knew, and through this, throw him off base.

Now that question could have easily ended up in a philosophical and theological debate. But Jesus immediately pulled that question from mid-air, and placed it on a dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho. And he talked about a certain man, who fell among thieves. You remember that a Levite and a priest passed by on the other side. They didn’t stop to help him. And finally a man of another race came by. He got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy. But with him, administering first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying, this was the good man, this was the great man, because he had the capacity to project the “I” into the “thou,” and to be concerned about his brother. 


January 4, 2008 - Posted by | Houston, Houston Council Election '07, Martin & Malcolm, Politics, Texas | , , , , ,


  1. Neil, I can’t believe I didn’t chat with you at the inauguration. Check out my post on Kuff!

    Comment by samkelder | January 4, 2008

  2. Sorry – accidentally posted that on my friend’s account. He left himself logged in on my computer.

    Neil, I can’t believe I didn’t chat with you at the inauguration. Check out my post on Kuff!

    Comment by Alex | January 4, 2008

  3. Alex—Sorry I missed you. I had already read your post.Please keep in touch in the new year.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | January 4, 2008

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