Text of Bruce Kraus’ Address Upon His Swearing In

Speech given by Bruce Kraus, Pittsburgh's first openly gay City Councilmember, upon his swearing in on January 7, 2008.

“All of us might wish at times that we lived in a more tranquil world, but we don’t. And if our times are difficult and perplexing, so are they challenging and filled with opportunity.”
Robert Kennedy

 These words, spoken by Robert Kennedy some 40 years ago, are still significant today, in what they can teach us.  We are not the first to have lived through turbulent times.  

The recorded journals, safely housed within our City Clerks’ office, are filled with the transcripts of thousands of past Council sessions, and tell the story of the challenges and opportunities we have faced in our 250 year history.

But, through these difficult times, and because of the strength and character of the people of this great City, our resiliency in the face of adversity, and by the grace of God, we are here, today, to begin recording the journal of this new Council.   One which will tell our story of the challenges we will face, the opportunities we will seize and the celebrations of our strengths and accomplishments, as we set Pittsburgh on the path to another 250 years filled with promise. 

The stories we tell speak of the journeys we take. And as it is with many of life’s journeys, ours was one shared by friends and loved ones alike, too numerous to mention by name, and yet in your hearts, you know who you are. Your love, unwavering support and unshakable belief in me, now brings us to this final step of our first journey together, and onward  to the first step of a new and exciting adventure, full of the hope and promise of everything that can be. Without you, I would not be standing here today, and so from the deepest parts of my heart, I say “Thank You.”  You have entrusted me to be your voice and to carry your cause. For that, I am genuinely humbled.  I pledge to use this confidence you have placed in me, to help lead this great city of ours into the future, with integrity, grace and compassion.

Once in a lifetime, a great leader comes along, whose courage and moral compass will not allow them to stand idly by, while fear and prejudice remove thousands of American citizens from having a voice, in our democratic process. Such a man was, City of San Francisco Board Supervisor, Harvey Milk, who on November 27, 1978, paid the price with his life, so that one day, some 30 years later, ones orientation would no longer be a factor in determining their ability to serve as an elected official.  And so today, I honor his memory and I thank him for his courageous and selfless sacrifice that cleared the way for so many of us.

Pittsburgh’s history is filled with leaders who faced daunting tasks, and yet found the courage to answer their “call to action”. David Lawrence led a coalition of government and business leaders to build the Golden Triangle and, in the process, forever transformed Pittsburgh’s “smoky city image.” Richard Caliguiri provided the stable and effective stewardship that laid the groundwork for Pittsburgh’s renaissance, into one of our nation’s most livable cities.  Sophie Masloff and Tom Murphy had the vision and foresight to see the value in the revitalization of our North Shore and our riverfront properties. And, after the much too early passing of “everybody’s mayor”, Bob O’Connor, Luke Raverstahl accepted the challenge to lead us into a new renaissance, as Pittsburgh is, once again, named as our nation’s most livable city. 

And now, how will we, this new council, answer our call to action?

It is my belief, that our greatest strength and most valuable resource is our diversity. Pittsburgh is this wonderful hodgepodge of humanity.  We come from every segment of society and culture, and yet share in one great commonality; our deep love for, and desire to safeguard and nurture, the neighborhoods in which we live. Our ethnic heritages, deep spiritual traditions and unmatched work ethic are an immeasurable wealth of riches. Our varied neighborhoods, world-class cultural venues, winning sports teams, lush parks and internationally acclaimed universities and hospitals, are all assets that are the envy of many metropolitan areas, and provide us with the tools to continue Pittsburgh’s transformation, into one of America’s truly great urban centers.               

So with all of these resources at hand, what will we choose to make the signature achievements of this new council, now so full of promise and endless possibility?  What will history record about the time we will serve the people of this great city?

My hope is that we would work to provide an open, transparent and public process that reestablishes trust and confidence in government.  That we could envision for our future, a city where even the most vulnerable among us are safe and well provided for.  A city that sets the standard, for what a clean city can be. One where parks and recreation facilities flourish, and our commitment, to leading the nation in Green building, and responsible management of our natural resources, is stronger than ever.  Where our children attend first-rate schools and have every opportunity for the very best education possible; whose futures are financially secure, because we have been responsible stewards of the people’s money.

I see a city where every neighborhood will see the fruits of real economic development, and with it, have access to living wage jobs that will sustain home ownership and provide for young families.

But mostly, my hope is for a city, where all people are invited to our great common table, to share in an equal voice and have every opportunity to participate in, the stewardship of their futures, and have access to every resource that will lift them and their loved ones up, to their very highest quality of life.

And so, once again, I will find my voice within words, so eloquently spoken, by Robert Kennedy and put forward this challenge to us, this new council of the City of Pittsburgh for the year 2008, by saying:

 “Some men see things as they are and say why.  I dream things that never were and say, why not.”