Ferré speech at park dedication should become a legacy
Written by Michael Lewis on February 5, 2019
Let us hope that a seminal message in Miami’s history will be the speech by former Mayor Maurice Ferré – one of the major forces for advancement in his city’s past and present – at last week’s naming of Maurice A. Ferré Park beside our two shining new museums.
Excerpts of that strong, thoughtful speech on this page are proof enough of the adjective “visionary” that has been coupled with Mr. Ferré’s name for decades.
That characteristic is reason enough why Miami Today on its 30th anniversary in 2013 named Mr. Ferré one of Miami’s 30 Living Legends and why we chose him as our Lifetime Achiever of 2016. I could try to describe his speech and fall short. Far better to read it. Best to heed its lessons for Miami. He is, as usual, thoughtfully on target.
The midday ceremony Jan. 31 to rename what was long Bicentennial Park and more recently Museum Park for the former state legislator, six-term city mayor, county commissioner, public transportation overseer and all-around half-century leader was both moving and a gathering of the clan – people from all stations in life whose careers Mr. Ferré has touched and enriched, as well as his wife Mercedes, five children, 13 grandchildren and a very extended family.
In that park across from the glittering downtown that Mr. Ferré long had forecast and worked toward we talked with people we hadn’t seen for years. Mr. Ferré’s full speech cited many of them, all important to his career and his community, as well as great figures of Miami history.
Five other past Miami mayors as well as incumbent Frances Suarez gave him the key to the city. All five current commissioners proclaimed the day in his honor. County and state officials, past and present, abounded.
Wisdom did not flow from the honoree alone as guests from around the nation as well as Miamians watched speakers and a video screening of the public life of the nation’s first Hispanic mayor.
“Great cities are often defined by their parks and public spaces,” Javier Soto, president and CEO of the Miami Foundation, told attendees, and Mr. Ferré “always understood that.” A foundation fund has already raised nearly $100,000 for the Maurice A. Ferré Park’s future, Mr. Soto announced, seeking donations at give.miamifoundation.org./MAFF. The now-bare park needs appropriate signage with name recognition to start with, but then far more as the front door to a global city.
Armando Codina, the civic leader and entrepreneur, spoke not of Mr. Ferré’s honors and titles but of far more revealing experiences.
Mr. Codina, who arrived here as a Pedro Pan refugee from Cuba, recalled that many of the teens at Camp Matacumbe at which he stayed had Saturday field trips to “El Parque de las Palomas,” which is what they called the park being named for Mr. Ferré. One day, he said, he tried to walk to three 15th Road sites that housed other Pedro Pan youngsters – all were donated by the Ferrés. In a photo, he noted a 26-year-old Maurice Ferré kneeling with one of those refugees – “the Ferré family was there from day one.”
Mr. Codina also recollected Mr. Ferré as mayor on a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce mission to Madrid in 1980 assuming a Castillian accent to further the trade effort, and quickly becoming the mission’s spokesman.
As current Mayor Suarez told the crowd, “There are magical Magic City moments, and this is one of them.” He noted that “Mayor Ferré is a man of elegance, class and grace. He is always articulate. And he never accepts mediocrity.”
Mayor Ferré authored for Miami Today in 2017 a series of nine columns on this page that successfully nudged county government to look beyond simple rail solutions to Miami-Dade’s transit crunch. “He always pushed the envelope of transit technology,” Mayor Suarez said.
It was entirely fitting that Mayor Ferré’s assistant of five years in the 1980s, entrepreneur Carole Ann Taylor, closed the celebration by singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” That certainly is where Mr. Ferré’s clear vision has always taken him.