Each year, our organization, CLASS, hosts a “Community Hero Banquet” which is designed to celebrate folks who are building inclusive opportunities in our town of Pittsburgh. The event is always an exciting evening where we highlight these amazing people and then give them an award.
This year’s event was wonderful with some unique folks getting the award. As a surprise to me, however, my colleagues at CLASS were able to convince the Mayor of Pittsburgh, Bill Paduto, to do a special award for me, given my upcoming retirement from CLASS. Now Mayor Paduto and I are old friends, who have been working together for years, going back to his days as a legislative assistant to City Council in the early 80’s. When he then ran for a city council seat, it was in the district that directly represented our agency center. Bill won that election and in his time as a Councilman, we collaborated on many important initiatives designed to make our city more inclusive and welcoming to people with disabilities. He has been an amazing advocate for our city, and now, as Mayor, he continues to promote the elements of inclusivity for Pittsburgh.
At our dinner this year, he made a surprise visit and read a wonderful proclamation that singled me out and was very touching. Over my 45 years at CLASS I have heard politicians give proclamations to deserving community members and was touched to be on the receiving side of this effort.
What bowled me over however, was that after he read the proclamation he paused, and reached for a large box with the seal of the City of Pittsburgh. He opened the box and then gave me the highest civilian honor that one can get in our community - the Key to Pittsburgh. He went on to say that I was only the 5th recipient of this most high honor in the history of our city.
I was literally speechless. People who know me know that I am not one for awards or accolades. I am a simple man trying to do what is right - to use whatever gifts I have been given to build something better for all of us. And not just me - but trying to collect all of us to do whatever part we can in making for a better world.
I am humbled and honored to receive the key to our city, but more, to have aligned with forward thinking people who see the wisdom of a better commonwealth - one where the impact to one of us, is tied to the impact of all of us.
Lets continue, all of us, to change the world.