Opportunity. That is what we have before us — the chance for something better.
It's what Moses Cleaveland recognized in 1796 when he saw our high bluffs and dense forests, our lakefront and winding river. It was the ideal combination: protection and access for shipping. It's why he paced out a 10-acre New England-style Public Square before returning home to Connecticut. This place held promise.
It's what two brothers, born in Wooster, found when their family moved here a century later. Armed with only an eighth-grade education, Oris and Mantis Van Sweringen wandered through a string of jobs before they found a place in real estate and turned a floundering rail line into a national network. It's how they pictured the Union Terminal complex — as something grand.
It's why an 11-year-old boy ended up here back in 1948, intimidated by the Terminal Tower and skyscrapers that greeted him. Like those who flocked here from other parts of the world to work our shipyards, mills, railways and factories, Bennie Mosley Jr.'s father arrived from the South to craft a better life for his family. And it's why Mosley still lives here now.
It's the legacy of Wade, Winton, Rockefeller, Goff, Severance, Eaton, Brush, Gund, Sherwin and so many others, who not only shaped us as a city, but also offered what they'd been given to others. It's why we can still enjoy the 235-acre park that was once a part of the Rockefeller estate. It's why our orchestra plays in its resplendent home.
It's why Langston Hughes felt at home here, why the Harlem poet cherished the support of the Jelliffes and what they created at Karamu. It's why his impact traces a line through the Cleveland Play House and Dorothy Silver and beyond.
It's why Mayor Tom Johnson's words about Public Square still ring true. "The city with its privileges and its responsibilities is their city, that it is as much their home in the collective sense as the houses in which they live are their individual homes."
It's the reason we must look at our past as we gaze into our future. It is how we understand that we must do better. That is the challenge we have before us. Those are our privileges and responsibilities in this next renaissance — to create a city that mirrors our Public Square, where opportunity is open to all.