Candidates for both local and national elective positions are on their last two weeks of campaigning for the May 13 polls.
We are sharing this very beautiful vignette of the life of the late New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia who guided the so-called Big Apple City in seeing through his government during the Great American depression and all of the World War II.
We got this LaGuardia vignette from the book “A World of Stories for Preachers and Teachers” written and compiled by Fr. William J. Bausch, a priest of the Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey. The book was a birthday gift to us by our son Sacha when he came home after an eight-month contract with an overseas vessel sometime in 2016.
We are dutifully sharing this LaGuardia story in the hope that those lucky candidates as well as those who are out to select their next leaders will learn come positive lessons from it.
Here is the late New York Mayor LaGuardia story as told to Fr. Bausch by James N. McCutcheon:
“Devoted New Yorkers called him (LaGuardia) ‘the Little Flower’ because he was only five foot four and always wore a carnation in his lapel. He was a colorful character who used to ride the New York City fire trucks, raid speakeasies with the police department, and take entire orphanages to baseball games. Whenever the New York newspapers were on strike, he used to go on radio and read the Sunday ‘funnies’ to the kids.
“One bitterly cold night in January of 1935, the mayor turned up at a night court that served the poorest ward of the city. LaGuardia dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself. Within a few minutes, a tattered old woman was brought before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. She told LaGuardia that her daughter’s husband had deserted her, her daughter was sick, and her grandchildren were starving. But the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, refused to drop the charges. ‘It’s bad neighborhood, your Honor,’ the man told the mayor. ‘She’s got to be punished to teach other people around here a lesson.’
“LaGuardia sighed. He turned to the woman and said, ‘I’ve got to punish you… The law makes no exceptions — ten dollars or ten days in jail.’ But even as he pronounced sentence, the mayor was already reaching into his pocket. He extracted a bill and tossed it into his famous sombrero, saying, ‘Here’s the ten-dollar fine which I now remit; and furthermore, I’m going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant’.
So the following day the New York City newspapers reported that $47.50 was turned over to the bewildered old woman who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her starving grandchildren, 50 cents of that amount being contributed by the red-faced grocery store owner, while some seventy petty criminals, people with traffic violations, and New York City policemen, each of whom had just paid fifty cents for the privilege of doing so, gave the mayor a standing ovation.”
Now, will there ever be a modern Mayor LaGuardia from among the crop of our current and aspiring politicians? Will there ever be voters in our current society who will stand up to support politicians of the LaGuardia kind without material or monetary consideration?
From the looks of it today, this wish could just be another of those nebulous dreams by the real idealist among our people.
But of course there is this favorite quote from the patriarch of the now Aboitiz corporate conglomerate that we cherish so much and hopes to live with it until our last breath. It says, “To dream is free. So it’s better to dream big.”
And we are one of those who are dreaming that one day soon, we, the Filipino people, will have our own LaGuardia and there are those from among us who will give the LaGuardia of our time a standing ovation.