Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren is rightly pointed to as an example of a person – a woman – rising from challenged circumstances in a troubled neighborhood to the highest elected office in her community.
And that is good.
But it is an incomplete perspective and a limited example, and it leaves out that part of her life which may do the most good as a pattern for others.
Because Lovely Warren is also married.
Specifically, she is a woman – a black woman from Rochester’s Southwest – who became a wife before she became a mother.
That example, a dramatic departure from the pattern of her neighborhood and the current norm of black America, is one that has potential to do dramatic good.
Yes, she defied the odds when she graduated from high school. Yes, she broke new ground when she went to law school. Yes, her tenure on City Council was pioneering. Yes, her election as Rochester’s youngest and first female mayor was historic.
And those examples are all to the good.
But if the little girls of Rochester look to Lovely Warren as a pattern and inspiration for their own lives, the most important accomplishment they can note is that she is married.
In an era and city where the black out-of-wedlock birth rate dances around 75 percent, it is important and valuable to trumpet the fact that the mayor, in her personal life, made a choice that three out of four of her peers did not. It is also important to point out that her choice was healthy, righteous, responsible and wise, and that it will likely bring happiness and success to her, her husband, their children and their community.
That’s a big deal.
And that’s something that the little girls and boys of Rochester need to see. The family pattern chosen by the mayor – a traditional, nuclear, mom-and-dad family – has always been the basis for personal and societal success. Its decline, particularly among African-Americans, has been a tragedy of monumental significance and consequence.
The sociological impact of single motherhood is staggering. And while no one condemns single mothers or out-of-wedlock birth, neither can society any longer separate the phenomenon from its consequences. Nothing makes a child more likely to live in poverty, experience academic failure, run afoul of the law, be welfare dependent or live an otherwise dysfunctional life than being born to a single mother.
Certainly, being born outside a traditional family is not an insurmountable obstacle – both the mayor and I are children of such circumstances – but the tendency to personal and community difficulty cannot be denied.
In fact, it must be recognized as perchance the most consequential problem in American society.
And the mayor’s example is part of the cure.
In a world of impressionable minds, she is a real-world Disney princess. She is the princess not of Hollywood fantasy, but of Rochester reality. She got from here to there in the real world that Rochester’s children and adolescents are growing up in.
And she didn’t have a fairy godmother with a magic wand, she had a head on her shoulders and made some good decisions.
And perhaps the most important of those was waiting to become a mother until after she became a wife. She didn’t tie up with a man of convenience, in a passing relationship of no lasting value. She met a good man and fell in love, and they decided to honor themselves, their families, their faith and their future progeny by cementing that relationship in the bonds of holy matrimony.
Every young person in Rochester, looking up at the example of Lovely Warren, should note that. Hopefully, in so doing they will want that for themselves.
Lovely Warren is a successful person. Certainly, there is much of her life still to be lived and much of her political mark still to be made. But she is a successful person, and that is nowhere more true than in her personal life – and there is no part of life where success is more important.
She has a husband. He works hard at an honest job. He stands by her side and she stands by his side. They have a baby daughter together and that baby daughter has a loving and stable home.
That is part of the Lovely Warren story, an important part. In fact, decades from now, when Lovely Warren is counting her honors and accomplishments, in her heart of hearts, as she goes to meet her maker, it may be the only accomplishment that truly matters.
Reporters ask if she can be both a big-city mayor and the mother of a young child. Of course she can. But the issue isn’t how she orders her day, it is how she ordered her life.
And she did that the right way.
In terms of being an example for her youngest constituents, it’s not just about her schooling and her elections, it’s also about her wedding ring.
If young women and men wisely choose to follow her path, hopefully they will seek to emulate that part of her example as well.