by Jeanie Riess
During the final moments of Mayor Mitch Landrieu's inaugural address this morning, a five or six year-old drum major from The Roots of Music walked timidly out onto the Saenger Theatre's massive stage, positioning himself in front of the podium. The crowd laughed nervously, not sure whether the tiniest member of the marching band had made a mistake in his choreography, until the mayor drove home the point he made consistently in his remarks: that New Orleans should continue to invest in the next generation to preserve the city's future. "Three hundred years from now," Landrieu said, "when historians look back, they will remember how we the people of New Orleans, in this moment, in this time, came together to do what was hard for the sake of doing what was right, and gave light and freedom, goodness and life, to those generations we do not yet know."
The mayor, who took the oath of office behind Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman, Civil District Court Clerk Dale Atkins, Criminal District Court Clerk Arthur Morrell, Coroner Jeffrey Rouse and City Councilmembers Susan Guidry, LaToya Cantrell, Nadine Ramsey, Jared Brossett, James Gray, Jason Williams and Stacy Head, focused on the 300th anniversary of the City of New Orleans in 2018, which will mark the end of his second mayoral term.
The inaugural ceremony was preceded by an interfaith service at St. Louis Cathedral, where various religious leaders blessed the mayor and elected officials and asked to keep them free of jealousy, self-interest and other political woes.
The Saenger was mostly full for the inaugural ceremony, which included a gospel choir singing to slides of the mayor in action around New Orleans, paired with quotes from speeches he's given over the years. District E Councilmember James Gray gave a fist bump to one of his family members holding the Bible just after taking his oath of office, which drew some laughs. District A Concilmember Susan Guidry gave her husband, who had administered her oath, a quick kiss before returning to her seat.
The ceremony was choreographed to coincide perfectly with Landrieu's speech, so that the drum major was no accident at all but a careful move to mirror the mayor's words. "…Something else is happening in New Orleans this day," Landrieu said. "A baby child was born...At this moment, a family is made and a precious seed is planted and a root takes hold. In this moment, anything feels possible. In this moment, dreams are launched and a journey begins from a joyous birth towards the bright visions to what tomorrow may bring. This one child holds with her the hopes and dreams not just of a family but of the city of New Orleans. She’s depending on us. And we are depending on her. And many years from now, when we pass her the baton, we will know that we ran our leg of the race, and we did everything that we could do so that she begins not behind, but at the head of the pack, with a real shot at winning."
At the end of his remarks, the mayor told the drum major to "blow that whistle," unleashing the band from the back of the Saenger and sending brass and drums blaring down the aisles.