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Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more

Jack Lessenberry

Well, it’s Christmas Eve, the official start of a holiday that long ago became as much a secular as a religious one. Tonight and tomorrow, we mark an occasion in which Americans of nearly all faiths  celebrate our strenuous attempts to please the gods of retail sales.

Early indications are that we’ve done fairly well.

Yesterday, the oracles of the federal Commerce Department said the economy had grown at a dazzling five percent pace in the last quarter, the best rate in eleven years. The Dow Jones topped 18,000, and the roads aren’t even icy. If you thought you saw Ebenezer Scrooge standing in line to buy Bob Cratchit a ham yesterday, you probably did.

No, I haven’t become Pollyanna. We’ve still got a lot of problems in this state, and lumps of coal would be too good for the dysfunctional Michigan Legislature, where some members should spend Christmas on a chain gang patching the roads.

Yet there are some good things happening too. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan will serve as emcee for next week’s inauguration ceremonies in which Gov. Rick Snyder and Lieutenant Gov. Brian Calley, that semi-invisible man, will begin their second terms.

There were a number of eyebrows raised at this. Snyder is a Republican, of course; Duggan, a Democrat – though there is a whispering campaign that the mayor is a closet Republican.

That’s not the case. Political junkies with too much time on their hands are already talking about a Battle of the Titans in four years.

They think we’ll see Duggan battling it out with Bill Schuette to become our next governor. Maybe. But my guess is that Duggan has far more immediate concerns.

Namely, Detroit. The city is indeed out of bankruptcy and is in better shape than most of us imagined a year ago.

But it is not out of the woods. Things are very shaky. The fact is that Rick Snyder, who got only seven percent of the vote in Detroit last month, has done more for Motor City than any governor in ages, perhaps ever.

Mike Duggan knows full well that he and his city need a continuing close partnership with the governor’s office. I’m not saying that he voted to reelect Snyder, but I don’t think he spent much time crying about the result.

Detroit has a fair amount to give thanks for this Christmas. There’s a note of poignancy, too. There’s a photo of me on Christmas 59 years ago, not quite four, standing in front of a fireplace proudly wearing my new cowboy outfit. Twelve days before that, a geeky 29-year-old kid named John Dingell had been sworn in as my new congressman.

This Christmas, ten presidents and six decades later, he is still in Congress. Empires have fallen, wars lost and won, and he’s seen and voted on it all. He was re-elected along with Dwight D. Eisenhower, and was in Congress the day Barack Obama was born.

But this will be his last Christmas as a congressman. In some ways, he clearly left the world a better place than when he got there. I hope that someday, they’ll be able to say that about all of us.


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