The Temple News supports our troops. Many staffers get their cable and Internet at home from Comcast. We’ve even been known to announce that we’re “having a great day.” But why involve all these issues in what should have been a simple holiday ceremony: the lighting of the City Hall Christmas tree?
After the boys choirs had harmonized in clear, tinkling voices and the various Philly VIPs on stage had been introduced, after an operatic aria was made out of “O Holy Night” and children began complaining of cold fingers, Mayor John Street came to the microphone. Even the most curmudgeonly Philadelphians in attendance were eager to watch the 35-foot Colorado Blue Spruce go up in lights. And then the mayor started talking.
Opening with a variation on his trademark phrase (“Are you having a great day?”), the mayor was initially greeted with cheers. But the speech he launched into – nothing less than a stump speech for a campaign he’s not running – was so unnecessarily long that within minutes, children were squirming and even their parents were wondering just how long he would continue speaking.
The mayor wasn’t just talking about Christmas. After thanking sponsors CN8 and Comcast, he went on to suggest that, for their generosity in sponsoring such a community-oriented holiday event, Philadelphians should “do what they want us to do.” The crowd exchanged looks of confusion. What was it, exactly that corporate sponsors wanted us to do? Purchase cable and Internet for almost a $100 every month? Watch It’s Your Call with Lynn Doyle every night on CN8?
After his bizarre comments about supporting corporate sponsors, the mayor moved into another issue of support – supporting the troops overseas. Not only was the crowd asked to pray for troops during “this Christmas season” – a welcoming call indeed for the Muslims and Jews in the crowd, not to mention a far cry from separation of church and state – but they were asked to support the men and women overseas after being asked to support corporate sponsors. This reflection of the mayor’s priorities is, to be frank, disturbing.
The mayor’s comments at the tree lighting were inappropriate and unnecessary. Making every stage the scene of a political message is both boring and un-called-for, and the comments he did make, both those embracing corporate financing of public events and those making a religious issue of the troops serving in Iraq, only detracted from the once-palpable holiday spirit in the crowd. By the time the mayor was finished speaking, and had counted down and flipped the switch on the tree, the crowd was not only cheering, they were breathing a sigh of relief.