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Chicago Public Library Posts Archive Of Speeches By Mayor Harold Washington

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Ninety-nine years ago on Thursday, Chicago's first Black mayor, Harold Washington, was born. As CBS 2’s Jim Williams reports, a big part of the birthday celebration includes a new exhibit of Washington's time in office - his speeches.

Video Transcript

IRIKA SARGENT: Ninety-nine years ago tomorrow, Chicago's first Black Mayor, Harold Washington, was born. A big part of the birthday celebration includes a new exhibit of Washington's time in office-- his speeches. CBS2's Jim Williams with an inside look.

JIM WILLIAMS: Harold Washington, Chicago's 51st mayor and the city's first Black mayor, had a way with words.

HAROLD WASHINGTON: I am not a combative person by nature, but I have the courage of my convictions. And I cannot shrink from necessary contests.

JIM WILLIAMS: His formal remarks, his ad libs, his quips--

HAROLD WASHINGTON: I'm here to tell you tonight, the state of the city is real good.

JIM WILLIAMS: Inspired many, including a future United States president, reflecting the mayor's emphasis on racial justice and inclusion.

HAROLD WASHINGTON: Not only is it not enough that we're getting the trains to run on time. In the long run, if we don't have a fair and equitable government, the trains won't run at all.

STACIE WILLIAMS: His speeches show the ways that he sought to actively build a coalition.

JIM WILLIAMS: And now the Chicago Public library has digitized Harold Washington's mayoral speeches. All those pages, now available online. Stacie Williams is chief of archives and special collections.

STACIE WILLIAMS: For people my age, really learn more about what that legacy meant. And understanding it now in the context of everything that's happened, I think it's incredibly important.

BRIAN BOYER: He's a wonderful man. He was wonderful fun. I think about him every day.

JIM WILLIAMS: Brian Boyer was Washington's chief speechwriter in the early years of the administration. Every day, he spent hours with the mayor whose off-the-cuff remarks were eloquent.

BRIAN BOYER: And he knew the audience that he was going to speak to. And he knew what he wanted to say.

JIM WILLIAMS: In this 1984 state of the city speech, Washington saw what Chicago would become.

STACIE WILLIAMS: I formally recognize that our city will be equally divided between Hispanics, Whites, and Blacks by the year 2000. And I welcome this diversity as a living sign of social progress and economic strength.

JIM WILLIAMS: Mayor Harold Washington's words, now available on any screen.

HAROLD WASHINGTON: And I ask for your help, with the same adventurous spirit of Jean Baptiste Point du Sable when he founded Chicago. We're going to do some great deeds here together.

JIM WILLIAMS: Harold Washington would often say he planned to be mayor for 20 years. He died six months into his second term. He was 65. As you read those speeches, you can hear his voice. We're [? live, ?] Jim Williams, CBS2 News. Irika.

IRIKA SARGENT: That was a great look back, Jim. Thank you. And here's a bonus, the day Mayor Washington came into our old newsroom in Streeterville and talked about his first 100 days in office. You can watch the story right on our website CBSChicago.com