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Acceptance of 2008 Leadership in Government Award

Keystone Center

To everyone in the Keystone Center, thank you very, very much for this tremendous honor.  It is very humbling to think about the extraordinary cross section of leaders that you have acknowledged and honored here tonight; Jeffrey Sterba, Paul Walden Hansen, Gerald Wheeler and the legendary Jim Lehrer.

The Keystone Center’s philosophy of tapping into our country’s collective wisdom, of focusing on the events that unite us and getting all of us to square our shoulders for the challenge ahead is really an important thing, especially now in our country’s history.

There is a beautiful Native American proverb, which says that, “How we treat one another is reflected in how we treat the earth.”  How we treat one another is reflected in how we treat the earth.

There is such a strong connectivity, I think anyway, and what I’ve found in public service, that virtually every important decision that those of us who have the trust of public service make.  It is a connectivity, a connectedness, that is reflected in the very seal of the State of Maryland.

How many Marylanders have we here in the audience here?  A few.

It’s reflected in our seal, the plowman and the fisherman living together in harmony, not only with one another, but also in harmony with the land, the air, the water upon which all of us depend.

I want to talk to you just for the last couple of minutes here about the politics of posterity. And in that context I want to share with you a couple of thoughts about the “kid, the crab and the planet.”

When I was elected Mayor of the City of Baltimore, it was after a long period of a lot of rough years.  We had become the most violent city in America and had a neighborhood forum where they lined up the microphones on both sides of the room.

A little 12 year old girl came up at Dunbar High School and she said, Mr. Mayor, my name is Amber and I’m 12 years old and there’s some people in the newspaper, that because of all the drug dealers and the addicted people in my neighborhood, they refer to my neighborhood as Zombie Land.  And I want to know if you know that they call my neighborhood Zombie Land.  And I want to know if you’re doing anything about it.

Well, the question that she asked of me was I think the question she asked of all of us in the broader sense of community.  And we did do something about it and we still are.  Baltimore’s cut its crime virtually in half.  We invested in drug treatment programs and, I’ll be darned, some of those Government programs actually work.

So it’s healing more people.  We drove down drug overdose deaths to all-time lows.  And the City’s population, after four years in decline, is now growing again.  We knew and we did something about it.

Recently, Governor Kaine and I were confronted with the reality that we’ve seen a 17 percent decline in the population of the iconic Chesapeake Bay blue crab.  And it’s because of a lot of factors, including how we use the land and how that affects the waterways and the environment of the crab.

But it’s also due to a lot of over-fishing.  And as we sit here with some of the watermen, whose livelihoods and their ability to feed their own families depend on it, I said to them — as I’m sure Governor Kaine did – “ Gentlemen, if we don’t do something soon, none of us will have anything.”  And that’s really the imperative of our day.

It’s what the politics of posterity is all about.  It’s about believing that in fact we actually can make a difference in how this world progresses.  It’s about understanding that for all our diversity, for all of our different perspectives, there are certain core beliefs that unite us: a belief in the dignity of every individual, a belief in our own responsibility to advance the common good, and an understanding that there is a unity to spirit and to matter and that what we do in our own lifetimes does matter.

How we treat one another is reflected in how we treat the earth.  And you know what?  How we treat the earth just might usher in a new era of how we will treat one another.  And God wants every partial victory.

Thanks very much.

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