Rahm Emanuel at President Obamas inauguration Monday
  • Saul Loeb/Getty AFP/Getty Images
  • Rahm Emanuel at President Obama’s inauguration Monday

President Obama’s inaugural address made me think of Rahm Emanuel’s own inaugural speech, delivered 20 months ago. “Today, more than any other time in our history, more than any other place in our country, the city of Chicago is ready for change,” the new mayor said in May 2011.

For parents “who deserve a school system that expects every student to earn a diploma,” and for residents “who deserve to walk home on safer streets . . . this is your day,” Emanuel went on. “This morning, we leave behind the old ways and old divisions and begin a new day for Chicago.”

“New times demand new answers,” the mayor also said. “Old problems cry out for better results.”

Although Emanuel didn’t mention it, one of those old problems crying out for better results was racial segregation.

During the mayoral campaign in 2011, I wrote a story on the subject. I noted that in the 1960s, Chicago’s poor, black neighborhoods had been beset with crime, fires, joblessness, dreadful schools, and abandoned buildings. Segregation had been foisted on blacks by white Chicagoans, with the help of civic and government leaders, throughout the 20th century. It had concentrated the poverty of blacks, leading to the deplorable circumstances that, over decades, millions of Chicagoans had been born into.