Rahm Emanuel

This Time Around, a New Day for Rahm Instead of Chicago

The mayor's second inauguration was scaled back and humbled by talk about how violence affects Chicago's children

Four years ago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel took the stage at Millennium Park to ring in a new era of leadership in Chicago.

His inauguration marked a historical moment in Chicago history as a Daley stepped aside for some new blood with big ideas. Fresh from the White House, Emanuel started his first term as mayor with a message of change, naming the city's education system, its minimum wage, its finances and the safety of its streets as areas of focus.  

Four years later, and a little worn down after a challenging re-election bid, Emanuel faces many of the same issues. But this time, the mayor spoke with less a sense of hope than a sense of urgency. And he asked the residents of Chicago to help shoulder the burdens of the city. 

The mayor's second inauguration speech Monday focused almost exclusively on Chicago's children and, by default, its schools. Instead of telling voters he wanted to change the school system, however, he said he wants to see a change in Chicagoans themselves. He wants them to be more involved. 

"You must do your part, too," the mayor told city residents.

"The government is not a substitute for involved parents and other role models. The government is not set up to provide a moral compass to our lives."

This slight change in attitude, from a can-do mayor to one who asks for help from the rest of the city, is a mark that Emanuel himself has changed since his last election, even if his agenda hasn't. 

After being forced into a runoff election with Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia in April, Emanuel told his supporters upon that he heard their cries. Perhaps for the first time, the mayor acknowledged the need for collaboration and greater transparency. By way of a runoff, Chicagoans told him they would not blindly trust him and they would hold him accountable.

Another mark of a change in the mayor was his chosen venue for the inauguration ceremony. In 2011, the ceremony included special parties and a large gala, as well as priority seating for donors at the main event. This time, there was none of that.

Although Emanuel's words have changed a bit, however, there are still sure signs that the Rahm we all know is still there.

For example, Emanuel may be mayor of Chicago, but, in some ways, he never fully left the White House and still seems to have one foot in the door there today. In 2011, Vice President Joe Biden attended the inauguration. In 2015, it was former President Bill Clinton. And in case anyone forgot Emanuel is pals with President Barack Obama, the mayor enlisted the president's support more than once in his re-election bid in February.  

His don't-mess-with-me attitude is also still there, and it made a show at his second inauguration, too. Before he dove into his speech, he managed to insult a crowd member who declared Chicago is the greatest city in the world.

"You have a limited vocabulary but a lot of energy," the mayor told him, quoting Bill Clinton. 

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