Imagine a great slogan. State legislator Federico Peña was a dark-horse candidate for mayor back in 1983, but he stood out in a crowded field with his progressive politics, his ethnic background, his age -- he was just 36 -- and a very smart slogan: Imagine a great city.
Twenty-eight years later, Denver has had four more mayors, including a few dark horses who pulled ahead of the rest of the pack: Wellington Webb, John Hickenlooper and now Michael Hancock. But that slogan -- "Imagine a great city" -- continues to echo through what has definitely become a great city. There are references to it in just about every major political speech.
And whenever I hear those references, I hear the echoes not just of the last three decades in Denver politics, but the laughter of the woman who brainstormed that slogan. Sandy Widener, Westword's original managing editor and my college friend, had left the paper by 1983 and was helping the Peña campaign. As the story goes, she and Rob Simon, Westword's co-founder, were basically locked in a room and told they'd stay there until they came up with a tag line for Peña's run. Imagine a great slogan.
There are variations on the story, but Sandy's version is the one that has become legend -- because she, too, is now legend: She and her husband, political strategist John Parr, and their daughter, Chase Parr, were killed in a horrific car wreck. The tragedy took all but the youngest Parr daughter, Katy, leaving echoes of all the great work these three had done, individually and as a family. I hear them all the time.
And yesterday, they echoed through Hancock's inaugural speech.
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Today, I tell you Denver, it is time. Time that we deliver a great city for all of our citizens. Denver is brimming with possibility. Now is the time for all of us to come together to turn our dreams and aspirations into reality....
We are all Denver and to ensure that no business, no neighborhood and no family is left behind, I need your energy, your creativity and your feedback. I need you to stand with me, because this journey is our journey together.
Denver, you have made me who I am. You have made our city what it is today, and together we will deliver an even greater city for our children tomorrow.
God bless you, and God bless the great City and County of Denver.
It was a strong speech from a man with an incredible background. Denver might have helped make Michael Hancock who he is, but he had to imagine that great life for himself -- and then make it happen.
The great magic of this city is that what you imagine can come true.
More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "Michael Hancock appoints panel to wrangle National Western Stock Show plans."