A couple of weeks ago in the Queen City, our (somewhat) newly elected mayor went back to school. Just over a year after being elected mayor of our fair city, Miro Weinberger participated in an unprecedented outreach to the educational community. For four days last week (not including Tuesday’s snow day), the mayor set up camp in the Assistant Principal’s office. He participated in several high school rituals, including the morning bus ride to school, school lunch and even attendance of a couple of classes.
In an editorial in The Burlington Free Press, editor Aki Soga wrote that the mayor, “deserves credit for creating an opportunity for Burlington students to see up close their elected mayor and city government at work.”
It does seem like a great opportunity, and for a handful of students, it undoubtedly was a unique and valuable experience. After seeing how the week shook out, though, I can’t help but wonder if the high school is just a microcosmic representation of how politics really work.
The week started off with an opening assembly that not all students got the chance to attend, and the percentage of students that got the chance to interact with the mayor during his week in school was minimal. Many students echoed the sentiment that they hardly saw the mayor.
Of course, those involved in student government and other leadership roles saw a lot of the mayor. What about everyone else? Just like our democratic republic, the voices of the many are entrusted in the hands of the few.
The few, however, have a stake in keeping their status and so adjust their stances according to what will keep them in a position of influence.
What did some of the many at the high school have to say that the few did not share? Well, they were glad to hear Mr. Weinberger say that his favorite ice hockey team is the Boston Bruins. They also questioned if he would support a rally against the budget cuts that slashed the high school’s own hockey team. They shared their disappointment that he did not follow his predecessor’s example of encouraging police restraint last July when Burlington police fired rubber bullets at Tar Sands protesters. They questioned what he was doing about “the ‘hood”.
The voices of these brave teenagers were accompanied by cheers from their classmates as they asked these questions in the mayor’s end-of-week question and answer session.
Time and time again in our country it seems that the voices from the masses seem to be painted as fringe zealots, but if this example is to be taken as a true analogy it would seem that the speakers are only the brave tip of a submerged continent, awaiting discovery.