Greising: Lightfoot's Election Night Speech Was One to Savor — but What's Really Possible?

Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot's first priority must be wrangling the city's fiscal mess.

Lori Lightfoot delivers a victory speech after defeating Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle to become the next mayor of Chicago. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

BGA President David Greising writes every other week for the Chicago Tribune Opinion section.

Lori Lightfoot showed a side of herself on election night that we hadn’t seen before.

When she dropped the hard shell of campaign rhetoric, as if stepping out of a suit of armor, something surprising and powerful emerged. With religious overtones, warm memories of her parents, an expression of love to her wife and daughter, even a moment where she asked all at her victory party to join hands in a show of unity, Lightfoot showed she can command a stage — and perhaps lead an unruly city.

To watch Lightfoot on Tuesday night was to observe a citizen-turned-politician who is mastering the art of rallying a crowd around her ideas and force of will.

Lightfoot touched on many of the aspirations the people of Chicago share with her. She talked about not allowing a person’s ZIP code to determine his or her destiny. She called for an equitable investment in neighborhoods largely overlooked by the Rahm Emanuel administration. She promised stronger schools and even thanked the teachers who supported her, an interesting touch given that the Chicago Teachers Union had endorsed her runoff opponent, Toni Preckwinkle, for mayor.

The speech was one to savor. If Lightfoot can summon that muse more often, she just might have a shot at rallying the city around her.

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