Mayor-Elect Muriel Bowser Delivers Remarks at Mayor Marion Barry Funeral
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Below is a transcript of Mayor-Elect Muriel Bowser’s remarks at Mayor Marion Barry’s funeral service held today at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center:
“Our friends who have come from far and near, I am humbled to be among the distinguished speakers to honor the life of our friend, Marion Barry. We know that Christopher knew him as a father, Cora as a husband, and all of us as “Mayor for Life”, council member, and activist.
“I count myself among the many, the lucky, who got to work with him closely and know him as a friend and mentor. It is not easy to sum up the remarkable life of Marion Barry. But as I stand here, a word that constantly comes up is “fighter.”
“It not only describes his bigger-than-life persona, but how he lived his life in service to others. I think it goes without saying that few have had a career, a life, as profound as Mr. Barry’s or left such a tremendous impact on our city.
“Since he passed, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t run into somebody who tells me how Mr. Barry impacted their life in some way. How he was responsible for giving them their first job or how he helped someone starting a business or how he was an inspiration to their son, daughter, or grandchild as mentor. Or, as the woman who called me at 7:00 in the morning one morning after crying all night about the loss of Marion, and how we all had to be responsible to stand up to the challenge he leaves us.
“He leaves behind a strong legacy for our children and city. He was a true champion for Ward 8. Every day, he woke up trying to find solutions, create opportunities for the residents who had long been denied equal opportunity to succeed in our city.
“When the system failed, Marion did whatever he could to help. He was refreshingly sincere, refreshingly honest, even when it hurt. I remember early November when he was getting ready for the thing he loved the most, serving Ward 8 at Thanksgiving. He sent a tweet that says, “I wish I could do more, but I will do all I can.””
“I remember the first time I met Mr. Barry. He likes to say I was 14, but really I was six. [laughter]. In many ways, he embodied all of the characteristics of a prize fighter. He was a towering man, tall, fine, smart. He walked with a certain swagger until the day he died. He lived his life on his terms, his way, until the day he died. He had an unbridled confidence. He was unlike anybody I have ever known. It was that confidence that took him from Itta Bena to the Mayor’s office in our nation’s capital.
“He was living proof that with smarts, persistence, when opportunities were few for the men and women of color of his time, but he persevered. He showed everybody it was possible to rise, it was possible to lead. Marion did that without ever losing sight of who he was or where he came from or what his responsibility was to the struggle.
We know this: Sometime after Martin had a dream or President Obama gave us hope, Marion Barry provided opportunity.
We have heard about his summer youth program. I am going to work every day, very hard, to make sure every summer the children of the District of Columbia know that the Mayor’s Summer Youth Program was the Marion Barry Summer Youth Program. And the opportunity they have to work in the summer was because of Marion S. Barry, Jr.
Up until Marion passed, we talked nearly every day – five times a day sometimes. In every conversation, he was passionate as ever, offering advice and sharing his experience as Mayor. And, almost every day since he has passed, someone tells me, Muriel bowser, Marion trusted you. Marion trusted you to speak up for us, to stand up for us, to fight for us. Marion trusted you with the baton he passed on to lead the District of Columbia. It is that fight, it is that spirit, that I will stand before you again on January 2nd to become the next Mayor of the District of Columbia. I will stand with that spirit of the “Mayor for Life”, the Mayor forever, Marion Barry. God bless you.