I am sure this column is being read by several future presidents of the United States of America. This is no exaggeration, considering the history of Yale. Although your Yale education is preparing you for leadership, I ask you tonight to boldly go beyond learning facts and figures and become even more conscious of the level of human suffering surrounding your campus. At least for a moment before leaving Yale, I want you to immerse yourself in service to the poor.
This immersion will give balance to your thinking; it will sharpen your understanding of your principles, values and morals. It will add great value to your life today and make you a more effective leader tomorrow.
Yale is a powerful and rich institution with tremendous resources at its disposal. With these blessings of talent and wealth come great responsibilities.
Right in front of your eyes is one of the poorest communities in the United States, and we are not talking about Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama. We are talking about the richest state in the nation, the home of one of the richest educational institutions in the world. Right in your front yard is a level of human suffering that has been allowed to exist for several generations.
I ask you to find a way to assure that your total educational experience at Yale includes a community immersion that gives you an opportunity to recognize the poor, to tend to their needs and then to change the conditions that created this debilitating poverty. This thinking combines Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan with the observation of Martin Luther King Jr. To Yale and to its students, Ward 22 is your neighbor on the Jericho Road.
I want to say thanks to all those Yale students who are trying to help, but so much more needs to be done. We need more of you working at higher levels. On behalf of your fellow human beings, your neighbors, I beg you to find a way to make your time at Yale count in the lives of New Haven’s poor.
If you allow yourself to grow and move to a higher level of humanity through service to others, you will prepare yourself for more useful and effective leadership of your family, your community and your nation.
With your help, and with me as your alderwoman, we can bridge the gap between those of you who want to make a difference and those in our community who need your help. I will work to create that safe space where we can work together to help each other grow.
I showed the people of Ward 22 that I can translate the language and needs of the poor into reasonable policy and program statements while holding our officials accountable for their performance. I am very comfortable both on our toughest streets at night and at City Hall meetings during the day. Sometimes I wonder which is more dangerous.
As your elected ward leader, I was able to bring City Hall to the streets and had department heads and elected officials standing before ordinary residents in Ward 22 to be held accountable for their actions, or their inaction. I showed the people of Ward 22 that I will not bow down and look the other way when political bosses downtown overlook our ward or do something wrong.
I ask you to find the courage and wisdom to stand up against the old, unjust, male-dominated political machines, in which the boss makes a decision and we are expected to follow him blindly, and in which we are not to question the legitimacy of either their process or the rationale for their decisions.
I was legitimately elected as the Democratic ward co-chair by the Democrats in our ward, and I have served with distinction. As your alderwoman, I will work to make New Haven a better place to live, work and play.
I will work hard for my constituents and will be accessible to you. I will make sure all your ideas and complaints will be addressed properly and promptly by the appropriate agent in city government. With your help, we will make the city work for us, and Ward 22’s voice will be heard at City Hall.
Cordelia Thorpe is a candidate for Ward 22 alderman and the co-chair of the Ward 22 Democratic Committee.