At New York's Mayoral Inaugurations, Ask Not for a Great Speech

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At noon on Jan. 1, 1898, Robert A. Van Wyck was unceremoniously inaugurated as the first mayor of the consolidated city of Greater New York. He did not deliver an inaugural address.

Instead, after inspecting several floral displays in the mayor's private office, Mr. Van Wyck accepted the congratulations of the departing mayor, William L. Strong - who observed that the voters had decided that Mr. Van Wyck should "descend from your position as judge and assume the position of magistrate" - and then replied tartly: "Mr. Mayor, the people have chosen me to be mayor. I shall say whatever I have to say to them."

Mr. Van Wyck's retort may go down as the least gracious of inaugural remarks, but, the fact is, not many of his successors who delivered formal speeches after they were sworn in said much of anything that was any more memorable.

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