LA mayors legacy: Follow your Heart
As a returning Vietnam veteran, I was looking for quality political Leadership
when I began working on Tom Bradley’s first campaign for mayor of Los Angeles,
in a losing effort in 1969. What I found in Bradley, who died recently, was a person who would never
listen to the word “no.”
For his entire life, Bradley was given advice, such as he shouldn’t try to go
to college and that a black man could never be elected mayor of a white city.
He refused to listen
Bradley told a story after winning the mayor,s post in 1973- The first of five
terms and when I became his first press secretary- That provided me an insight
into his toughness.
When he was 7 years old, after a day of picking cotton, he looked at his small
bleeding hands and swore he was going to make a better life for himself. He
wasn’t going to accept a predetermined fate set by society for people of dark skin.
After his experience as a track star at UCLA, as a police officer, as a lawyer
and as a city council member, Bradley made it his business to get involved in
every aspect of city life. He became so Knowledgeable on civic matters that,
in effect he became a scientist of the city.
When Bradley became mayor, there was no on the job training. He hit the street
running. For the first time in the city’s modern history, he balance the
budget before it went to the council for ratification When the Department of
Water and Power had only a 30 day supply of oil left during the Arab oil
embargo, he formed a committee of the most conservative members of the
business community and directly lobbied President Richard Nixon for an
emergency allocation of oil. He was successful where others were not!
Perhaps Bradley’s greatest asset was that he liked people regardless of their
wealth, color, religion or background. He could work on bridging the gap
between rich and poor, labor, business and environmentalist. He was a
coalition builder who could be trusted. His word always was accepted as the truth.
For all of us Mayor Tom Bradley is a reminder to follow your heart, no matter
how tough the obstacles.
– Bob Kholos