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In Inaugural, Emanuel Borrows Themes From His Old Boss

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Rahm Emanuel Inauguration

Rahm Emanuel stands alongside his wife, Amy Rule, before the inauguration. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – As Rahm Emanuel took center stage as Chicago’s new mayor, his inaugural address paid homage to his old boss in the White House and his predecessor at City Hall.

Emanuel, who resigned at President Obama’s Chief Of Staff to run for mayor, borrowed two prominent themes from Obama’s presidential campaign.

Right at the beginning, Emanuel told the crowd, that “today, more than any other time in our history, more than any other place in the country, the city of Chicago is ready for change.”

His speech itself was workmanlike, with no real surprises. It focused on three key themes: Improving Chicago schools, making the city’s gang-infested streets safer and reforming city government.

“Chicago is the city of ‘yes, we can’–not ‘no, we can’t.’ From now on, when it comes to change, Chicago will not take no for an answer.”

SLIDESHOW: Mayor Emanuel’s Inaugural

Outside of alluding to Obama’s hope and change themes, the new mayor paid direct tribute to the president.

“I also want to thank President Obama, who turned our nation around and who loves Chicago so much. He understood why I wanted to come home to get our city moving again.”

Unlike the presidential campaign, however, Emanuel had to walk a fine line as he takes over from a mayor that has ruled the city for a generation. He is looking for change, but not at the cost of losing the support of Mayor Daley, who, in Emanuel’s words, made Chicago “a much greater city because of [his] lifetime of service.”

The symbolism of the place of the inaugural–Millennium Park–was not lost on the new mayor. It was Daley who worked to create the park–it was the subject of much controversy, built over an ugly commuter railroad yard at huge cost. It has now become a crown jewel of downtown and one of the former mayor’s legacies.

“When Mayor Richard M. Daley took office as mayor 22 years ago, he challenged all of us to lower our voices and raise our sights,” Emanuel said. “Chicago is a different city today than the one Mayor Daley inherited, thanks to all he did. This magnificent place where we gather today is a living symbol of that transformation.”

But clearly there are challenges: The city’s graduation rate is well below acceptable standards; while crime has dropped, the city still has a reputation as a violent place with a troubled police department; and it faces a huge budget crisis with a bloated bureaucracy.

In closing his speech, Emanuel made a clear reference to all the challenges ahead–and that it will take sacrifice from everybody. Nothing will be sacrosanct.

“If everyone will give a little, no one will have to give too much,” he said. “And together, we will keep faith with future generations and the visionaries of our past, who built on the shores of Lake Michigan a city where dreams are made.”


John Dodge, cbschicago.com

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