On Monday at 10 a.m., Conte Forum hosted the inauguration of Mayor Martin J. Walsh, WCAS ’09, an alumnus of the University and Boston’s first new mayor in two decades.
The son of Irish immigrants and a Dorchester, Mass. native, Walsh earned his degree from the Woods College of Advancing Studies in 2009 while also serving as a representative to the 13th Suffolk District in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. He is the first undergraduate alumnus to become mayor of Boston-Kevin White, who served as mayor of the city from 1968-84, earned his law degree from BC in 1955.
The choice of Conte Forum, named after former Republican U.S. Representative Silvio O. Conte, BC ’49, as the venue for the inaugural ceremony broke a longstanding tradition of holding the mayoral inauguration in downtown Boston. The last time the mayoral inauguration was held outside the downtown area was in 1980 when then-mayor White took the oath of office at the Strand Theatre in his native Dorchester, four miles south of City Hall. The most popular inaugural location is Faneuil Hall, where outgoing mayor Thomas M. Menino was sworn in for each of his five terms.
Located about six miles west of Walsh’s new office in City Hall, Conte Forum is just within the city limits despite its address being listed in Chestnut Hill. Walsh’s inaugural committee, which raised $489,825 for the inaugural celebrations, chose the venue in part because of its proximity to public transportation and its parking and seating capacities-the building holds approximately 8,500 spectators.
On Monday morning, spectators flocked to BC from across the city to join numerous political dignitaries in welcoming Walsh as Boston’s new mayor.
“Together, we have much to do and a lot of hard work ahead,” Walsh told the crowd, which nearly filled Conte. “It’s appropriate that we start today here at my alma mater, at the Conte Forum, home to the Boston College basketball and hockey teams. Whether on the hardwood or the ice, this is a place where teamwork matters and makes a difference. This is a place where you win when you work together-even when it means taking a few elbows under the basket or in front of the net. I stand here today profoundly grateful to the team that brought me to this moment and to all the people of Boston I am honored to serve.”
The ceremony included remarks from notable public figures, including University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, Senator Elizabeth Warren,and Governor Deval Patrick.Amid criticism from the Boston media, Menino did not attend the ceremony due to vacation plans. World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Irish tenor Ronan Tyran, and students from the Boston Renaissance Charter Public School-who also sang a song written by Mel King after President Barack Obama’s 2008 election-all performed at the event, which was produced by the Cambridge-based Brattle Entertainment.
During guests’ remarks, Walsh was seated on a blue-carpeted stage alongside his mother, Mary, longtime partner Lorrie Higgins, and Higgins’ daughter, Lauren Campbell. The special guests were seated to his far right and the 13 members of the City Council, who were also sworn in to their offices, were seated across the stage to his left.
“In this new chapter, Marty Walsh will work hard to make sure that everyone has a fighting chance to make something solid,” Warren said. “I am optimistic because we have a new mayor who will be a mayor for all of Boston.”
Patrick called the inauguration a day of new beginnings, and attested to Walsh’s kind and caring character and his dedication to public service.
In his speech Walsh laid out the framework for his agenda, calling to quell city violence, grow the local economy, and strengthen public schools.
He endorsed a nationwide search for a new superintendent who will commit to closing the achievement gap between white and minority students, expand technical training, and create universal early childhood education opportunities for Boston Public Schools (BPS), which serves 57,100 students and has a budget of over $857 million.
Walsh, who was a founding member of the Neighborhood House Public Charter School, was endorsed by the Boston Teachers Union-the local affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)-on Election Day. It was revealed in late December that the AFT, under the political action committee One Boston, funded a $480,000 television commercial supporting Walsh in the days leading up to the election. Walsh defeated City Councilor John Connolly by about 5,000 votes.
Before being elected as the city’s 54th mayor, Walsh worked as a union laborer and most recently served as the leader of the Building and Construction Trades Council of the Metropolitan District. He resigned after two years at the helm in order to run for mayor.
“Everything we aim to accomplish, every dream we want to realize, requires the faith and trust of the people of Boston,” he said. “We must increase transparency and make clear that Boston’s interests come first, always.”