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Brett's Beta Phi Mu (Sigma Chapter) Keynote for December 6, 2011

Brett's Beta Phi Mu (Sigma Chapter) Keynote for December 6, 2011

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Published by pacella3439
"Perspective and Doing Good Work," delivered at Drexel’s Beta Phi Mu Initiation on December 6, 2011. This speech is the basis for a post at In the Library with the Lead Pipe (January 2012).
"Perspective and Doing Good Work," delivered at Drexel’s Beta Phi Mu Initiation on December 6, 2011. This speech is the basis for a post at In the Library with the Lead Pipe (January 2012).

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Categories:Types, Speeches
Published by: pacella3439 on Dec 07, 2011
Copyright:Public Domain

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Perspective and Doing Good Work Delivered at Drexel’s Beta Phi Mu InitiationDecember 6, 2011 Greek Picnic is a reunion and gathering of the alumni and current members of the ninehistorically African-American fraternities and sororities. It was first celebrated in Philadelphiain 1974, and has been celebrated here every year since. For most of its history it was a wellattended event, but in the mid-1990’s it got to be really big. I’ve read estimates that 100,000 people would register and another 100,000-200,000 would attend some events around the cityduring Greek Week each July. The City didn’t seem to know what to do with this sudden influx of college students and alumniwho seemed like they just wanted to drink and party all night, and most people seemed to seethe situation as a public safety issue that should be handed over to the police. Businesses wouldclose for the week and gate their doors and windows, so each night bored students and alumniwould cruise up and down Broad Street and South Street. Sometimes things got out of hand. I mean, what do you do with a bunch of people who just want to drink and party all night? Here’s where I want to touch on the first point in my speech: Perspective.So you have this annual crush of African-American fraternity and sorority members and alumniwho want to drink and party all night. You know who else likes to drink and party all night?
 
 Mummers. Philadelphia hasn’t always handled its relationship with the Mummers as well as it should, buton the whole we do pretty well. I think most Philadelphians agree that New Year’s Day wouldn’t be the same without them. You know another group that just likes to drink and party all night? Delegates at political conventions. Around the same time the City had no idea what to do with all these college students and alumnieach July, it was building hotels and fixing up the Convention Center, and New Jersey wasrebuilding Admiral Wilson Boulevard in Camden, so we could be ready for the 2000 Republican National Convention, the one where George W. Bush was nominated for the first time. TheConvention lasted four days, from July 31 until August 3, and then everyone went home. Whichis what you would expect. You don’t get to be a delegate without putting down roots. It’s not likethe delegates were going to spend three or four nights here in Philadelphia, fall in love with our City, and decide to move here. You know who does that? College students. When I was a first-year undergraduate at Rutgers,one of my friends from summer camp came up to visit me for a few days. I introduced him to myfriends, we went to my classes together, and he transferred to Rutgers from Virginia Tech and
 
 became my college roommate. I realize that’s just one data point. Here’s another. One winter break, I went out to visit a friendin Albuquerque. He showed me around, I fell in love with the place, I worked for a year after I graduated from Rutgers and saved up some money, bought a Saturn, and I moved out toAlbuquerque and got a job in a bookstore. That’s the kind of thing college students will do. And that’s exactly what Philadelphia needed inthe mid-1990’s. The population of the city had been declining for decades. There were thousandsof abandoned houses all over the city that would eventually get bulldozed. Students at Drexeland Penn and Temple and all of our other schools would leave the moment they graduated. The City should have realized those hundreds of thousands of college students and alumnicoming to Greek Picnic every July could help to revitalize Philadelphia. We should have beenworking with employers and real estate agents and mortgage brokers and sports teams andmusicians and dance clubs and theaters and restaurants and everyone else who could have madethem feel like VIPs. Instead we treated them like criminals. And Greek Picnic got smaller again. It could have been racism that clouded our perspective. But that doesn’t explain Love Park. Love Park is right near City Hall and it’s been internationally recognized for decades as oneof the world’s truly legendary skate parks. It was the main reason Philadelphia was chosen asthe site for the 2001 and 2002 X Games. So what did we do? We started enforcing a ban on

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